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How Will Harvey Weinstein’s Conviction Affect Future Sexual Assault Prosecutions?

On the morning of February 25, one day after former Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape, actress Caitlin Dulany stood with a dozen other women on the steps of the Los Angeles City Hall to speak to the press. “You will have a different world because of what happened today,” she said. “It will not be the same. It will never be the same.”

Meanwhile, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. was echoing the same sentiment, proclaiming, “This is a new day. Rape is rape whether the survivor reports within an hour, within a year, or perhaps never. It’s rape even if there is no physical evidence.”

Quotes like these, reported widely by major outlets like the Associated Press and the L.A. Times, have attorneys, sexual assault victims, sex crime defendants and the general public all wondering whether the Weinstein case will make it easier for sex crime cases to be prosecuted.

Prosecutors decide which cases make it into a courtroom, and many of them shy away from bringing sexual assault and rape cases to trial because there is often a lack of hard evidence. Often, these cases devolve into a “he said, she said” type of argument.

From a defense attorney’s perspective, one of the most interesting parts of the Weinstein case is that some of the accusers admitted to having some sort of consensual relationship with the Hollywood mogul. As such, Weinstein was an intimate partner, and assaults involving intimate partners have very rarely been brought to trial. But in this case, a victim behavior expert was allowed to testify about how it isn’t unusual for sexual assault victims to have ongoing communication or even a relationship with their alleged attackers. Testimony of this type had rarely been allowed in court up until very recently.

As defense lawyers who have handled numerous sex crimes cases in New York, we think it is possible that the Weinstein case could lead to more prosecutions here and around the country. Women may be more willing to come forward with accusations and to endure the trauma of a trial because they now have more hope that a conviction is realistic. Prosecutors may be more willing to bring rape and sexual assault cases to trial, having seen that it is possible to get convictions without a lot of physical evidence.

If you are accused of rape, sexual assault or any other sex crime, you need a powerful defense attorney on your side, now more than ever. At Tacopina, Seigel & DeOreo, we know how to handle the legal and media relations aspects of sex crime cases effectively. Call 212-227-8877 or contact us online if you have been accused of any sex offense in New York City.

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