As soon as the verdict was handed down, everyone hailed it as a victory. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance immediately held a press conference and began taking credit for the conviction, announcing that Harvey Weinstein had “finally been held accountable for the crimes he committed.”
You may remember Vance as the guy who decided not to prosecute Weinstein in 2015 when he was presented with a tape of Weinstein harassing an Italian model in a Manhattan hotel. But it’s five years later, and now Vance is no longer Mr. Friend of the Wealthy.
He’s turned over a new leaf, or conversely has realized that he can’t get away with “special treatment for the donor class” anymore. Whatever the reason, the guy who sought a reduced sex offender status for Jeffrey Epstein and failed to pursue criminal charges against the Trump kids is holding a press conference to celebrate his enormous prosecutorial victory.
And lawyers will tell you this is an enormous prosecutorial victory, they will tell you to be thrilled, that this is a day of justice. And it is, sort of. Harvey is no longer an accused rapist. We can finally call the mogul by his true taxonomical label “rapist Harvey Weinstein.” Tonight, Harvey Weinstein will sleep in jail.
He was found guilty of third-degree rape and sexual assault in the first degree. He was also not found guilty of the two more serious charges of predatory sexual assault and first-degree rape. Annabella Sciorra testified that Harvey raped her in 1993-1994, but alas it was “outside of the statute of limitation.” So Sciorra, who slept with a baseball bat by her bed for 20 years, doesn’t get justice because it happened too long ago. This seems like a grave miscarriage of justice. Why not change the statute? It seems odd that a creditable allegation of rape can be washed away by the sea of time.
I understand their thinking. A former Manhattan prosecutor writes in The New York Times, “The Weinstein verdicts indicate that we are beginning to correct course.” Television pundits tell us that “for such a powerful and wealthy person to be held accountable is a big deal.” But what if wealthy and powerful men should be held to the same standard as poor and powerless people? What if Weinstein shouldn’t have his own justice just because he can afford the best lawyers and the best fake sympathy props like his fake walker?
‘I’m innocent, I’m innocent, I’m innocent. How could this happen in America?' Harvey asked after the veridict was announced. Weinstein was surprised because, well, it was surprising: Rich and powerful white men are usually not held accountable in America. Just look at the White House. And so, we are told to celebrate this slow “course correction” and not to be enraged that we are so off course in the first place.
And that’s the problem. We don’t have time for a slow course correction. Much of the pundit class will tell you just to be thankful that Harvey didn’t get acquitted, the way wealthy men have for decades.
But I have a message for the pundit class: DO BETTER. Don’t tell me to be happy with scraps because historically women have been. Weinstein has more than 80 accusers. He’s ruined the lives of countless people. Just because wealthy and powerful white men have historically gotten away with abusing and raping women doesn’t mean that we should celebrate that Harvey got held accountable a little.
After all, he was still found not guilty of the larger charges of two counts of predatory sexual assault. Weinstein will not die in prison, or at least not from this case (there are more charges—next, Harvey will be tried in Los Angeles). But for now, Harvey has been acquitted of being a predatory sexual assaulter, which seems kind of like a gross miscarriage of justice.
I understand that these things things are hard to prove and that this was not an open and shut case, but maybe we need to change the laws around rape and sexual assault to greater encompass the me-too landscape. Not all rapes happen in deserted alleyways. Many rapes happen in the boss’ office or hotel room. Change the laws, erase the stigma. We need to be better than our parents and grandparents about sexual assault and rape. Let’s stop celebrating halfway victories just because they’re better than nothing.
Cy Vance said today, “To the survivors of Harvey Weinstein, I owe, and we all owe, an immense debt to you.” Yes, Cy, you fucking do. And I hope those women collect.