The jury reached a verdict today in Harvey Weinstein’s trial. He was found guilty on two counts of criminal sexual assault, and not guilty on three other counts including predatory sexual assault.
Before jury deliberations began, Weinstein’s lawyer Donna Rotunno made a public appeal to jurors on the case, angering the prosecution and the judge.
Newsweek published Donna Rotunno’s op-ed on February 16, days before the jury was set to begin deliberations in Weinstein’s case. In her piece, she implored members of the jury to “look past the headlines” and “do what they know is right.”
Here’s what you need to know about Donna Rotunno:
1. She Is Disappointed in the Verdict and Says Weinstein Will Be Appealing
After the verdict was reached, Rotunno spoke to reporters outside the courthouse. The Hollywood Reporter shared Rotunno’s statement: “This is a bittersweet day. We are disappointed. We knew we came in and we were down 35-0 on the day that we started this trial.” She continued, saying that “the fight is not over,” and that they definitely plan on appealing the verdict.
She was also asked about Weinstein’s position, and she replied “Harvey is very strong. Harvey is unbelievably strong. He took it like a man. He knows that we will continue to fight for him and knows that this is not over.”
She said she was very disappointed that Harvey was remanded into custody after the verdict: “It is absolutely horrible for me to watch my client be taken into custody. We don’t feel good about that at all.”
2. She Was Accused of Jury Tampering After Publishing an Opinion Piece
On Sunday, February 16, Newsweek published an op-ed by Rotunno in which she directly addresses jurors in the Harvey Weinstein case before deliberations. She said that jurors are instructed by judges to “avoid all media coverage and outside influences” when they make their decision, but that this is impossible in a high-profile case like Weinstein’s.
Rotunno said: “The mocking of Mr. Weinstein’s walker, the unflattering courtroom-artist sketches of his body, the countless critical op-eds and biased stories, and the convenient timing of the politically-motivated charges in Los Angeles were all designed to pre-determine his guilt.” Despite this, though, his attorney says that the jurors have an obligation to come to a verdict that is based only on the facts and testimony in the courtroom.
She finished the op-ed by saying that “The facts are the facts. Harvey Weinstein is innocent. His fate hangs in the balance, and the world is watching.”
According to reporting from the courtroom by Deadline, the lead prosecutor on the case, Joan Illuzzi, requested that the judge rule on the “borderline jury tampering” of the op-ed piece written by Rotunno. The judge did not include jury instructions about the article, but did say to Rotunno “I’d like to hear from you — what were you thinking?” Rotunno answered that she was speaking about the jury system overall and didn’t include anything she hadn’t mentioned in her closing statements.
The judge concluded by ordering the defense team to avoid speaking to the media until after the verdict is reached, and said to Rotunno “I would caution you about the tentacles of your public relations juggernaut.”
This wasn’t the first time that she received a warning about her public comments. The prosecution also raised its concerns about Rotunno’s public comments since the trial started. A month ago, the prosecution requested a gag order on Rotunno after she criticized Weinstein’s accusers publicly when discussing the case with reporters. On a New York Times podcast, she was asked if she had ever been sexually assaulted and she answered that she hadn’t “because I would never put myself in that position.”
The prosecution also accused Rotunno of calling the witnesses liars who were looking for fame. At that time, the judge ordered Rotunno and the defense team to avoid discussing witnesses.
3. She Has Worked Over 40 Cases Defending Men Accused of Sexual Misconduct
A ChicagoMag profile of Donna Rotunno from 2018 says she has taken roughly 40 sexual misconduct cases as a criminal defense attorney. According to this profile, her previous clients include high-profile names like former Bears cornerback Shaun Gayle, Islamic leader Mohammad Abdullah Saleem, and others that she won’t name.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Rotunno explained why she took Weinstein’s case: “Everyone deserves a defense,” she said. “I think for me — why I take these cases — is I do believe we can be effective for him.”
Here is a Fox News interview of Rotunno where she discusses defending Harvey Weinstein:
4. She Said She Is Opposed to the #MeToo Movement
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she said that she doesn’t believe the #MeToo movement has helped women and that women are “responsible for the choices that they make.” In an interview with NPR, she added that “women need to be heard, which is different than women needing to be believed.” In another interview, she added that “we are in an era of conviction by allegation.”
During her closing statements in the trial, The New York Times reported that Rotunno said that “Mr. Weinstein’s accusers had chosen to engage in consensual and often transactional relationships with him to advance their own careers.” She added that the prosecution presented a universe in which “women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their own careers, the hotel room invitations, the plane tickets they accept, the jobs they ask for help to obtain.”
5. She Is From Chicago & She Joined the Illinois State Bar Association in 2000
Donna Rotunno lives a private life outside of her legal work, and not much is known about her life. The 44-year-old attorney is from Chicago, attended Chicago-Kent College of Law and joined the Illinois State Bar Association in 2000. Both her Twitter and Instagram accounts are set to private. A ChicagoMag profile from 2018 says that Rotunno lives alone in a River West condo in Chicago.
She is a founder and senior partner of R&G Law Group in Chicago. On the law firm’s Facebook page, it says the firm was founded in 2005 and specializes in criminal defense litigation.