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If Weinstein Walks, It Could Have a Chilling Effect on Women Everywhere (Column)

Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)
STEVEN HIRSCH/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/S

I know the Harvey Weinstein rape trial is still six weeks away, but I’m obsessing over the distinct possibility that the disgraced movie mogul might not be held legally accountable for his alleged wrongdoing.

Weinstein faces five charges of rape and sexual assault arising from two incidents in 2006 and 2013. In addition to expected testimony from his two alleged victims, the jury in the trial, which begins Jan. 6 in the New York Supreme Court, is expected to hear from other Weinstein accusers, including actor Annabella Sciorra. If convicted, Weinstein could face life in prison. If not, he’d be a free man — which I imagine not only would be excruciatingly painful for all survivors of sexual abuse but could have a chilling effect on other women, who might be dissuaded from telling their stories. Weinstein also faces a dozen lawsuits accusing him of sexual harassment, sexual assault and retaliation; his lawyers are seeking to halt discovery in two of those cases, involving plaintiffs Alexandra Canosa and Wedil David, for the duration of the criminal trial.

Weinstein continues to insist he is innocent of committing any crime and that sexual contact with his accusers was consensual, despite abuse allegations leveled against him by more than 80 women since Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published their exposé on Weinstein in 2017.

I reached out to Kantor to get her thoughts on the upcoming case.

“We’re making no predictions about the outcome of the Weinstein trial,” she tells me. “The defense and prosecution have both had problems, and relatively little is known at this point about the 2013 rape accusation at the center of the trial. And remember: The majority of allegations against Weinstein are for sexual harassment, which is not a criminal offense — and the lawsuits that do seek to hold him accountable for harassment have seemed stuck for months. Even if they are settled and the women get recompense, it’s not yet clear whether Weinstein will have to deliver an admission of wrongdoing or any payment out of his own pocket. So, the looming question is: Will Harvey Weinstein face any legal accountability at all?”

That’s precisely the question that keeps eating at me.