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Prosecutors get final word at Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial

NEW YORK — By the time prosecutors at Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial give their closing argument on Friday, it will have been more than a week since jurors heard one of his accusers recount what prosecutors describe as a vile sexual encounter with the disgraced Hollywood mogul.

In the days since, Weinstein’s lawyers have called witnesses who raised doubts about the accusers’ testimony, brought in an expert who spoke about memories getting fuzzy over time and offered an epic, hourslong closing argument painting the prosecution’s case as a “sinister tale” and the allegations as “regret renamed as rape.”

Now, prosecutors look to focus the jury’s attention back on the accusers who testified and their harrowing accounts alleging rapes, forced oral sex, groping, masturbation, lewd propositions and casting couch experiences.

Several women testified that Weinstein ignored pleas of “no, no, no” as he assaulted them. The woman Weinstein is charged with raping said he would turn violent when he couldn’t get his way and that, “If he heard the word ‘no,’ it was like a trigger for him.”

Another woman recalled Weinstein sneering, “You’ll never make it in this business, this is how this industry works,” when she laughed off his advances.

Having the last word before jurors hear instructions and start deliberating Tuesday, prosecutors must also answer some of the defence’s knocks on their case.

Chief among them: that the two women Weinstein is charged with attacking were opportunists who willingly latched on to the once-powerful producer and acquiesced to sex with him because they thought it would help their careers.

Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on a different woman, Mimi Haleyi, in 2006. Other accusers testified as part of a prosecution effort to show he used the same tactics to victimize many women over the years.

The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of people who allege sexual assault without their consent. It is withholding name of the rape accuser because it isn’t clear if she wishes to be identified publicly.

The prosecution’s task has been complicated because the women he’s charged with assaulting didn’t abandon Weinstein after the alleged encounters.

A psychologist who testified for the prosecution said most sexual assault victims continue to have contact with their attacker. Nevertheless, the defence seized on the continued contact and confronted some accusers with warm emails and other communications with Weinstein that continued for months — or even years — after the alleged attacks.

In her closing argument Thursday, Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno accused prosecutors of creating an alternate universe that “strips adult women of common sense, autonomy, and responsibility.”

“In their universe, they are not even responsible for sitting at their computers sending emails to someone across the country,” Rotunno said in remarks that went on for more than 4 1/2 hours. “In this script the powerful man is the villain and he’s so unattractive and large, that no woman would ever want to sleep with him voluntarily. Regret does not exist in this world, only regret renamed as rape.”

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon is expected to deliver Friday’s closing argument for the prosecution. She is a longtime prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office and a veteran of high-profile cases and big moments.

In 2017, she won a conviction in the notorious decadesold case of Etan Patz, a child pictured on milk cartons after he disappeared in 1979. She also led the office’s 2011 sex assault case against former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which was ultimately dropped.

One thing jurors should expect to hear from Illuzzi in Friday’s closing argument is a reminder that Weinstein didn’t always look as feeble as he has during the trial.

On Tuesday, after the defence rested and the jury left for the day, Weinstein’s lawyers sparred with Illuzzi over her plan to mention how his physical appearance has changed significantly since the time of the alleged assaults.

Weinstein has hobbled into court each day with a walker, parking the device behind the defence table. His lawyers say it’s needed because of recent back surgery, but Illuzzi said it seemed more like a prop put there to sway jurors’ sympathies.

“I’m not going to argue Mr. Weinstein does not have physical ailments right now,” Illuzzi told Judge James Burke. “But I can argue that is not the man these witnesses saw.”

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On Twitter, follow Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Tom Hays at twitter.com/aptomhays

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For more coverage of Harvey Weinstein’s trial visit: apnews.com/HarveyWeinstein

Michael R. Sisak And Tom Hays, The Associated Press

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Website: Chechen rebel leader claims responsibility for Moscow airport bomb that killed 36 - 680 NEWS
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Website: Chechen rebel leader claims responsibility for Moscow airport bomb that killed 36

MOSCOW _ A website affiliated with Chechen rebels has released a video in which insurgent leader Doku Umarov claims responsibility for last month’s deadly suicide bombing at Russia’s largest airport and threatens more bloodshed if Russia does not leave the region.

The Kavkaz Center website says it received the video late Monday. It was not clear when or where the video was recorded.

The Jan. 24 attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport killed 36 people. Russian investigators say the bomber was a 20-year-old man from the Caucasus region that includes Chechnya, but have not released his name or other details.

“You see this special operation carried out by my order … more special operations will be carried out in the future,” Umarov says in the video, wearing a camouflage uniform and a skullcap.

“Among us there are hundreds of brothers who are prepared to sacrifice themselves” in further attacks, Umarov says in the video. “We can at any time carry out operations where we want.”

Over the weekend, the website released another video in which Umarov also threatened more attacks, saying 2011 would be “the year of blood and tears.”

Chechen rebels have fought two full-scale wars against Russian forces since 1994. Major offensives in the second war died down about a decade ago, but the insurgency has continued with small clashes in Chechnya and in neighbouring Caucasus republics.

The rebels have claimed responsibility for an array of terrorist attacks, including last year’s double suicide bombing of the Moscow subway system that killed 40 people.

Umarov, who seeks to create a Caucasus emirate independent from Russia and governed by Sharia law, said in the earlier video that he could call on 50 to 60 suicide bombers if necessary.

The blast at Domodedovo, south of the Russian capital, raised strong concerns about Russia’s strategy against the insurgents and about its ability to protect against future attacks. The day after the bombing, President Dmitry Medvedev said that terrorist attacks in the country increased in 2010, although he did not cite figures.

The bomb went off in the waiting hall of the international arrivals area at the airport. As in many other airports, there were no security procedures to go through in order to get into that area.

Medvedev initially lashed out at airport management for poorly guarding the area, but the airport’s operator responded that the Russian transport police are responsible for security in that part of the airport.

In the next few days, Medvedev fired several top transport police officials and ordered heightened security measures at all the country’s main transport hubs, including major railway stations.

The attack took place as Medvedev was preparing to speak at the prestigious World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he hoped to reassure foreign investors that Russia was safe and attractive.

The bombing forced him to make an abbreviated trip to Davos, where he declared that the attack would not crush Russia or its drive for investment.

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