Harvey Weinstein jury to begin deliberations

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, right, departs his sexual assault trial at New York Criminal Court with his lawyer Donna Rotunno, left, on February 14, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Harvey Weinstein jury to begin deliberations

  • More than 80 women have accused ex-Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct
  • Weinstein is the first man accused of abuse in the #MeToo movement to face a criminal trial

NEW YORK: Jurors will begin deliberating the fate of ex-Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein on Tuesday in his high-profile sex crimes trial that marked a watershed moment in the #MeToo movement.
The disgraced movie mogul, 67, faces life in prison if the jury of seven men and five women convict him of predatory sexual assault charges in New York.
More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct since allegations against him ignited the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power in October 2017.
But the jury is considering charges related to just two: ex-actress Jessica Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, with many claims too old to prosecute.
Mann, 34, says Weinstein raped her in March 2013, while Haleyi alleges he forcibly performed oral sex on her in July 2006.
The proceedings, which began hearing testimony on January 22, threw up complicated issues surrounding consent and abuse of power for the jury.
Under cross-examination, both Mann and Haleyi acknowledged at least one consensual sexual encounter with Weinstein after the alleged assaults.
Defense lawyers presented dozens of emails and text messages in court that appeared to show both Mann and Haleyi on friendly terms with Weinstein years after the alleged attacks.
His team said the relationships were consensual and transactional, arguing that the accusers used sex with the defendant to advance their own careers.
Prosecutors said he was a career sexual predator who took advantage of his powerful position in the American film industry to prey on aspiring young actresses.
Weinstein, the producer of “Pulp Fiction” and “Sin City,” is the first man accused of abuse in the #MeToo movement to face a criminal trial.
In closing arguments Thursday, lead attorney Donna Rotunno urged the 12 jurors to make themselves “unpopular” by acquitting Weinstein, insisting he had been innocent from the start.
She stressed that prosecutors had failed to present any forensic evidence or eyewitness accounts.
The prosecution’s case rests on whether the jury believes the six women, including actress Annabella Sciorra of “The Sopranos,” who testified that Weinstein had sexually assaulted them.
Judge James Burke will begin instructing jurors at 9:30a.m. (1430 GMT), before they retire to consider their verdict.
He will remind them that to convict, they must be sure of the defendant’s guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.
Weinstein faces five counts including predatory sexual assault, rape and a criminal sexual act.
The jury must reach unanimous verdicts on each count. If they cannot, the judge may be forced to declare a mistrial.
A split verdict is possible where Weinstein is convicted of some charges and cleared of others.
Weinstein is facing a separate sex crimes investigation in Los Angeles and is also the subject of several civil complaints.


You’ve got mail: Writer of mystery letters in Jeddah revealed

Updated 02 April 2020

You’ve got mail: Writer of mystery letters in Jeddah revealed

  • She leaves notes all over Jeddah to be picked up by strangers

JEDDAH: Ever wondered what it is like to find an uplifting letter from a stranger? If you are in Jeddah, then you are in luck as you might pass by and pick up a letter in a public area titled: “If you find me, I’m yours.”

These random acts of kindness were devised by an initiative called Garba’at Rasayl, Hejazi slang for “a mess of letters.” The group was created by 23-year-old Saudi freelance graphic designer Hadeel Felemban.

The simple white envelopes are covered in stickers and magazine cutouts. Felemban said letter-writing helps her express her thoughts and feelings while sharing it with the world, one letter at a time.

“Mess happens every time I write paper letters, a mess of words and feelings, a mess of scraps and colors used to decorate the envelope,” she told Arab News.

The act of writing letters is special to her as it brings a sense of connection to her father — who worked at the Saudi Post Office more than 20 years ago — and revives the exchange of letters in a world filled with technology. The initiative holds monthly meetings in different cities, where attendees gather to write letters to strangers.

“My father passed away when I was two, and the only way I knew him was through the stories my mother and his brothers share about him. I would write to him on my phone’s notepad sometimes, but I wanted something other than our names to connect us.”

The discovery of her late father’s stamp collection from different periods in her home two years ago prompted her to start the initiative.

“It was like finding a treasure. And ever since then, I’ve been looking for ways to reuse them and revive paper mail. I realized that in a period different than his, I became a mail carrier just like him.”

Felemban shared her interest in sending traditional mail on Instagram. She was able to send letters to some who responded, but she did not receive any in return.

“The waiting was suffocating, I felt devastated and I blame that we are not used to the mailing system and its hardship,” she said.

One night, she decided to write a letter and leave the envelopes in public places.

“Writing a letter to a stranger is probably the best solution to killing the unknown wait from the other party.”

She decorated the envelope of the message, and left it in a cafe in Jeddah without any contact information. “Then I found myself monitoring the cafe’s account on social media, and was disappointed yet again. I didn’t know what had happened to the letter, was it thrown away, picked up or neglected?”

In a family gathering in early October, Felemban placed her stationery supplies and envelopes on the dining table, ready to write a new letter. Her cousins and mother were curious and joined her.

“I was so happy to include them. I complained to them about the waiting and not knowing if the letter was abandoned.”

Her family members suggested creating a special tag for the letters so that strangers who received the letters could reach out to her.

“I created the Arabic hashtag for ‘mess of letters’ and created a post for my friends in Riyadh — where I was at the time — and asked them if they wanted to gather to write letters together. I received a lot of positive responses and then prepared for the event in one of the cafes in the city.”

She hosted the first gathering on Oct. 25 and was happy to see how the simple gesture of uplifting messages had an impact on her community.

“During exam week back when I was studying, it was such a mentally exhausting time, and I used to write encouraging words and quotes for myself and the visitors of the cafe I usually go to. I noticed they had a great impact on emotional well-being. I held on to that idea by writing letters to strangers in public places.”

This simple act of kindness from one stranger to another can go a long way toward making a difference in someone’s life.