On Monday, Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of sexual assault on two counts: A New York jury determined he forced a sex act on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in July 2006 and raped former aspiring actress Jessica Mann at a hotel in 2013. Sentencing is scheduled for March 11, and the conviction could result in up to 25 years in prison.

Weinstein, 67, was found not guilty on the most severe charge, predatory sexual assault, which would have established a pattern on forcing sex. That charge, related to allegations that Weinstein forced sex on actress Annabella Sciorra in 1993 or 1994, would have carried a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

The jury of seven men and five women had been deliberating on five charges since last Tuesday and heard from six women who alleged sexual misconduct, including Haleyi, Mann and Sciorra. Weinstein’s lawyers argued that all sex had been consensual.

Weinstein, who has reportedly already started the process of appealing his conviction, also faces sex crimes charges in Los Angeles, which involve alleged encounters with two women in February 2013. Experts say it’s too soon to tell what might happen in that case given the latest news.

The case has been closely watched, given the context of the #MeToo movement, which began in late 2017 after the New York Times and New Yorker published allegations against Weinstein. As The Washington Post reports, Time’s Up, an organization advocating for harassment-free workplaces, said in a statement that the verdict “sends a powerful message of just how much progress has been made” since Weinstein’s accusers came forward.

To contextualize the Manhattan conviction, we asked three legal experts to weigh in on the outcome. Carrie Goldberg is a victims’ rights attorney in Manhattan. She represented Lucia Evans in the criminal case against Weinstein before Evans’s charges were dismissed in 2018. Deborah Tuerkheimer, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, is a professor of law at Northwestern University. And Carol Tracy is the executive director of the Philadelphia-based Women’s Law Project, which seeks to advance the rights of women, girls and LGBTQ people.

Was this a surprising outcome?

“I was involved with my client in this case, Lucia Evans, starting in 2017. Back then, it was a struggle for prosecutors to even consider, seriously, an arrest. If you told me two years ago that there would be two convictions for very serious crimes, I would be flabbergasted.”

— Carrie Goldberg

What’s the significance of the jury finding Weinstein guilty on any charge?

“This was a very difficult case, there were sort of long odds for the prosecution. And the fact that both Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann were credited — that the jury was able to come back with guilty verdicts on both of those allegations — is very meaningful and sends a really powerful message about the type of cases prosecutors can be bringing.”

— Deborah Tuerkheimer

“It was two out of five [charges convicted]. There was no telling what direction the jury was going to go in. They sent out a couple notes, and it called for a lot of speculation. But everyone is completely at the mercy of the jury and their careful deliberations. I would imagine that this is a very good day for the Manhattan DA’s office. Convicting someone of sexual assault requires that you prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and it’s difficult, because in most situations, it’s only two people in a room. And so there’s a lot of reliance on outcry witnesses who weren’t there. This shows that it is possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

One of the reasons, famously, why sex crimes don’t get prosecuted that much is because prosecutors are afraid of losing. So this should be an announcement to prosecutors all across the country that these cases are worth fighting for and can be won.”

— Carrie Goldberg

“Rape victims have historically been viewed as liars, and in order to present a case, had to disprove that they were lying. The focus has been on the behavior of the victim, rather than on the behavior of the suspect. So there’s definitely been a culture shift.”

— Carol Tracy

What does the third degree rape conviction mean?

“The law in New York is not unusual — about half of the states still require forcible compulsion for the most serious kind of rape. Let me put it a little differently: Nonconsensual intercourse isn’t enough to make something rape in the first degree, it makes it rape in the third degree. This means that the jury was persuaded that [Mann] did not consent, but it was not convinced that there was enough force to call it rape in the first degree.”

— Deborah Tuerkheimer

What does it mean that the jury did not find Weinstein guilty of predatory sexual assault?

“The Jessica Mann case is a case where they weren’t convinced that there was forcible compulsion, which makes something rape in the first degree. You can’t convict a predatory sexual assault without two first-degree sex crimes, be they rape or a criminal sex act. The other point is that you need to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt about a prior sex act in the first degree. That prior predicate would’ve been the testimony of Annabella Sciorra. For whatever reason, the jury wasn’t able to reach a guilty verdict on that charge. … What’s important to understand is that with the predatory charges, the jurors had to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt about two first-degree sex crimes.”

— Deborah Tuerkheimer

How might the #MeToo movement have affected the verdict?

“The #MeToo movement did not change what elements are required to prove sexual assault. The #MeToo movement did not change the facts of the case and these victims’ experiences. What the #MeToo movement may have done is move the needle a tad bit when it comes to understanding sex crimes against women and creating conditions for a more informed jury when it comes to understanding sex crimes. But the jury still had to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these facts added up to a crime. And there were no changes to that process or to the crime based on the #MeToo movement.”

— Carrie Goldberg

“I think this is a manifestation of the culture change that has been brought about by the #MeToo movement. There was strong evidence, but women historically have simply not been believed. The fact that the prosecution was brought in the first place was very important, because very few rape cases of adult women actually ever get prosecuted.”

— Carol Tracy

How might this set a precedent in prosecuting sex crimes?

“This is a case that has been watched around the world. I think that survivors have been watching, prosecutors have been watching, potential jurors in future cases have been watching. So what this says is that the kinds of cases that historically the criminal justice system have not responded well to can be prosecuted to conviction. Cases that involve acquaintances rather than strangers, cases that don’t involve weapons, cases that don’t involve a prompt report. Those complicated cases that are messier and require jurors to set aside their preconceived notions of what victims do. Those kinds of cases, I think, have a greater chance of being reported and prosecuted than they would have had this case gone the other way, or certainly had it never been prosecuted.

It’ll be interesting to see in the future if these types of cases get prosecuted with the pattern witnesses we saw in this case. It wasn’t just the two women that the jury heard from, the jury heard from six. Over time, you would want to see cases prosecuted where even just the testimony of one credible woman can result in a conviction.”

— Deborah Tuerkheimer

“There’s been a movement in the last 50 years in this country to really demonstrate the impact of and prevalence of sexual violence in our country. I think it’s been a wake-up call to America and hopefully to the rest of the world, and hopefully it will make police investigate these crimes more seriously and prosecutors willing to take them. Because we just have not seen that in the past.”

— Carol Tracy

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