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The charges in the Harvey Weinstein verdict, explained

He was convicted of rape in the third degree and a criminal sexual act in the first degree. Here’s what that means.

Harvey Weinstein, shown in closeup of head and shoulders.
Harvey Weinstein enters court as a jury deliberated in his trial on February 24, 2020, in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

At his trial in New York, producer Harvey Weinstein faced five charges in connection with allegations that he raped or sexually assaulted women.

On Monday, he was convicted on two of those charges: rape in the third degree and a criminal sexual act.

Because laws around sex crimes vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, charges like these can be confusing. To understand them, it’s helpful to look at all the charges filed against Weinstein in the case, and the testimony behind each of them.

Weinstein was charged on these five counts in his New York trial

Rape in the first degree: Under New York law, this is the most serious rape charge. According to the state’s penal code, a person is guilty of rape in the first degree if they engage “in sexual intercourse with another person” by “forcible compulsion” or if the victim is “incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless” (a person may also be guilty of this crime if they sexually assault a child, which was not alleged in the Weinstein trial).

Under New York law, forcible compulsion means compelling someone “by the use of physical force” or “by a threat, express or implied, which places a person in fear of immediate death or physical injury to himself or herself [or another person] or in fear that he or she [or another person] will immediately be kidnapped.”

Weinstein was charged with rape in the first degree in connection with Jessica Mann’s testimony that he raped her in 2013. Mann said that Weinstein trapped her in a hotel room, holding the door shut, then ordered her to undress and raped her. “I gave up at that point,” she said, according to the New York Times.

Weinstein was acquitted on this charge.

Rape in the third degree: In New York, a person is guilty of this crime if they engage “in sexual intercourse with another person without such person’s consent.” This charge does not require prosecutors to prove “forcible compulsion” on the part of the defendant or that the victim was “physically helpless” at the time. In addition to the first-degree rape charge, Weinstein was charged with third-degree rape in connection with testimony by Jessica Mann.

He was convicted on this charge. That means that according to the jury, the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mann had not consented to what happened in 2013, but not that there was “forcible compulsion” involved.

Criminal sexual act in the first degree: In New York, the crime of a “criminal sexual act” refers to nonconsensual oral or anal sex. A person is guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree if they engage “in oral sexual conduct or anal sexual conduct” by “forcible compulsion.” Weinstein was charged with this count in connection with testimony by Miriam Haley.

Haley testified that on a visit to his apartment in 2006, Weinstein pushed her with his body into a bedroom until she fell on the bed. “I tried to get up, and he pushed me down repeatedly, by that time I started realizing what was happening … that this was rape,” she testified, according to BuzzFeed. Haley said that Weinstein ultimately performed oral sex on her without her consent.

Weinstein was convicted on this count, meaning the jury felt the prosecution had proved forcible compulsion in his assault on Haley.

Predatory sexual assault: In New York, a person is guilty of this crime if they commit first-degree rape or criminal sexual act, and have engaged in other conduct that would constitute such crimes in the past, even if they were not charged or convicted. Essentially, to prove this charge, prosecutors have to show that the defendant had a history of committing a sex crime against at least one other person, in addition to the primary victim. (There are also other reasons someone can be charged with predatory sexual assault, such as if they seriously injured a victim physically, but these were not at issue in Weinstein’s trial.)

To prove this in Weinstein’s case, prosecutors called to the stand Annabella Sciorra, who said that Weinstein raped her in the 1990s. According to the Times, she testified that Weinstein showed up at her apartment and pushed his way inside. Then he unbuttoned his shirt, pushed her onto her bed, pinned her arms above her head, and raped her.

“My body shut down,” she said, and she lost consciousness.

But jurors apparently did not feel that prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Weinstein raped Sciorra. They voted to acquit Weinstein on two predatory sexual assault charges (one in connection with Sciorra and Haley’s allegations, and one in connection with Sciorra and Mann’s).

The language of the law around sex crimes can be confusing, and as law professor Cheryl Bader told Vox last week, terms like “consent” and “forcible compulsion” aren’t necessarily clearly defined. Moreover, Americans’ understanding of consent is still evolving, especially with the rise of the Me Too movement — a movement itself propelled to prominence in part by the allegations against Weinstein. Still, what we can glean from the verdict against Weinstein is that the jury was convinced that the producer was guilty of nonconsensual conduct with Mann, but not necessarily that he used force as part of that conduct.

Now that he has been convicted, Weinstein faces a minimum of five years in prison on the criminal sexual assault charge and a minimum of probation in the third-degree rape charge. He will be sentenced on March 11.

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