LOS ANGELES (AP) — A prosecutor in Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial told jurors Tuesday that the accusers who will testify will tell eerily similar stories of themselves as young aspiring women being married in hotel rooms by a man in the Were cornered, which at the time was the definition of Hollywood power.
what you need to know
- Weinstein has denied any non-consensual sex and has pleaded not guilty to the charges
- He was brought to court on Monday by MPs in a wheelchair, wearing a black suit and blue tie
- Weinstein was indicted on a total of 11 counts
- The trial opened two weeks ago with jury selection, five years after women’s stories about him gave the #MeToo movement a massive boost
“Each of these women came forward independently, and none of them knew each other,” Assistant District Attorney Paul Thompson said during his opening remarks at Weinstein’s Los Angeles trial.
The 70-year-old former film mogul, who is already serving a 23-year sentence in New York, faces multiple counts of rape and sexual assault in California.
The defense countered in its opening statement that the incidents either did not happen or were consensual sex, which women had redefined in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein, prosecutor Thompson said, ruled his status as “the most powerful man in Hollywood” and spoke about the A-list female actors whose careers he had made before he turned aggressive.
Thompson played a video presentation with composite photos of the women who will testify and quotes from previous testimonies. Most were aspiring actors. One was an aspiring screenwriter who thought she would pitch him a screenplay.
All will testify that Weinstein ignored clear signs they didn’t consent, the prosecutor said, including “their shaking bodies, their crying, their backing away from him, their ‘no’.” The case will also testify about what he did to them to demonstrate his propensity for such acts, Thompson said.
Weinstein’s attorney, Mark Werksman, told jurors that what Weinstein did to the women was considered acceptable, “transactional” behavior in Hollywood, where young women sought roles and other benefits by having sex with the powerful film magnate had.
“You’ll learn that in Hollywood, sex was a commodity,” Werksman said.
The accusers Weinstein is accused of assault are expected to be identified in court only as Jane Doe, but they include Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an actress and documentary filmmaker who is married to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Siebel Newsom had not yet met Newsom and was an aspiring actor in 2005 when Weinstein raped her at a Beverly Hills hotel, according to his indictment.
Without giving her name, both sides said she would testify. Werksman called her a very prominent citizen of California.”
“She’s made herself a celebrity victim of the #MeToo movement,” he added, “otherwise she’d be just another chick who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”
In a statement to The Associated Press, Elizabeth Fegen, representing Siebel Newsom and two other Weinstein accusers, called the comments “despicable, desperate, dishonest.”
“The defense has ruthlessly engaged in misogynist abuse and victim abuse — but survivors are undeterred,” she added.
Werksman said Siebel Newsom and many other women in the case had been in contact with Weinstein in the years following the encounters and even entered into business dealings with him, often referring to him affectionately.
In an attempt to thwart that strategy, Thompson told jurors they would hear from a psychologist who would dispel rape myths. The key to this is the idea that a victim of sexual assault would have no further contact with their attacker.
Werksman said Weinstein’s consensual actions were altered in October 2017 by “the asteroid called the #MeToo movement.”
“He became the smoldering, radioactive center of it,” Werksman said. “He’s Hollywood’s Chernobyl.”
He said there was suddenly “a new word” for women, “sacrifice.”
The AP typically doesn’t name people who say they’ve been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly. Siebel Newsom’s identity was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, and her attorney has told the AP and other news outlets that she is among the women accused of sexual assault by Weinstein and will testify at the trial.
The first of Weinstein’s accusers to testify, a model and actor who lives and works in Italy when she met him at a Los Angeles film festival in 2013, said she was stunned when he answered the door of her hotel room after an interaction rapped with him briefly earlier that evening.
She said she was initially more confused than scared, so she let Weinstein in, but he became more aggressive. She said he ended up forcing her to perform oral sex.
“I cried and choked,” said the woman.
In the stands, she became more and more emotional until she was sobbing so hard she couldn’t speak.
With the court day ending, Judge Lisa Lench called for a break until Tuesday morning, when she will return to the stand.
Earlier in the day, Weinstein was wheeled into court in a suit and sat next to his lawyers.
Confusion ensued when Thompson failed to mention an accuser in his opening statement who was due to testify just last week. Weinstein was charged with a total of 11 counts, four of which involved the woman, who was not named. The public prosecutor’s office did not address why the woman was not reported.
Outside of court, Weinstein’s attorney said no charges had been dismissed.
“People excluded her from her presentation, so I didn’t mention her,” he said. “However, there is a glaring absence in their presentation.”