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“I don’t want this to sound weird, but I did think that Donna needed somebody out here that she could fully trust,” Cheronis said about joining this particular team. “She needed somebody from Chicago.” I asked him whether he thought the trial would change his career. “I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it,” he said.

Still, there were moments when he and Rotunno considered turning Weinstein down: They worried about their families, missing work in Chicago, and media attention. (“Look what they did to poor Marcia Clark,” Rotunno said during one of our interviews.)

They came closest to pulling out during financial negotiations—an issue Baez also cited in his request to quit. At one point during our conversation, Aidala imagined how the same trial would play out for a hypothetical “Harvey Jones.“

I asked if this defense team would care about a Harvey Jones.

“If Harvey Jones can afford it,” Rotunno replied quickly.

Weinstein’s lawyers communicate with him daily, often many times a day, just as their predecessors did. “You have to remember, this is really all Harvey has to focus on right now,” said Rotunno. “I think he looks at this as an opportunity to be involved in a project.”

Aidala said their client has at times pushed them to do things that you just can’t: “Like, ‘Oh, let’s introduce this into evidence. Let’s introduce that into evidence.’” He’ll propose witnesses he thinks will bolster his general image. “He is a master of doing that in the court of public opinion,” Aidala said. “He knows how to have the right people step up and say the right thing at the right time. That’s not how a trial works.” Who did he want to stand up for him?

“You name it!” cried Aidala.

Before I could, Rotunno changed the subject to Weinstein’s charitable giving.

Weinstein denies assaulting those accusing him in court, and has categorically denied all allegations of nonconsensual sexual contact. His defense at trial will be that the sex was consensual. “I think it’s easy to look back and say, ‘Oh, you know, maybe I didn’t love that experience,’” said Rotunno. “Well, okay. Regret sex is not rape.” A number of women have said they explicitly rejected and physically resisted Weinstein, including at least two who are expected to testify at trial. “I said, ‘no, no, no,’ but he insisted,” said Haleyi when she came forward publicly in 2017.

At the press conference where she went public Haleyi sat next to Gloria Allred at a table lined with microphones. She met Weinstein in 2004, she said, then ran into him again in 2006. He gave her a job as a production assistant. For the sake of her career, she said, she met with Weinstein several times and navigated various levels of sexual peril: She fled a hotel room, attended a harmless dinner, rejected a trip to Paris, and eventually accepted an invitation to his SoHo home. She said he backed her into a bedroom, held her down, forcibly performed oral sex, removed her tampon—she was menstruating and found the act horrifying—and then rolled over and said, “Don’t you think we are so much closer to each other now?” She said she replied, “No.”

The unnamed victim, called CW-1 in court records, says Weinstein forced penetrative sex on her against her will in a DoubleTree hotel room in Manhattan in March 2013. The prosecution, led by cold-case veteran Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, has not offered many details, and the state of New York limits prosecutors’ communication with the press. The prosecution and the defense have each accused the other of manipulating the media: In November, Illuzzi-Orbon sought a gag order to stop the defense from “trying to sway the jury pool before jury selection.” After Judge Burke rejected the request, Rotunno accused the district attorney of trying “to silence the opposition.”



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