March 22, 2023
Harvey Weinstein's LA rape trial is already a horror show

Harvey Weinstein’s LA rape trial is already a horror show

Etienne Laurent/Pool/Getty

LOS ANGELES — In what was set to deliver yet another blow to violent male predators, prosecutors argued Monday that convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted multiple women and used his power to silence them.

But the disgraced Hollywood titan’s legal team did not hold back on its own attack, insisting during opening statements in the latest criminal trial against Weinstein that his accusers were only “playing damsel in distress”.

Defense attorney Mark Werksman wasted no time in insisting to the jury that the women set to testify against Weinstein were liars, insisting that two of them had made up dating and that the other two had had “transactional sex” with him.

Weinstein, 70, has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges against him, including rape and sexual assault, after he allegedly used his power in the entertainment industry to lure and abuse five women in Los Angeles between 2004 and 2013. If found guilty, he faces a maximum sentence. sentence of 140 years in prison.

Prosecutors said on Monday that former actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom was one of five Jane Does whose allegations are being considered in the criminal case and was set to testify against Weinstein after he allegedly raped her in 2oo4 or 2005.

Werksman argued on Monday that Weinstein’s relationship with Siebel Newson was consensual, before stating that if she weren’t married to California Governor Gavin Newsom, “she’d just be another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein for progress in Hollywood.”

The stark opening statements came hours after the formidable producer was ushered into the upper courtroom in Los Angeles on Monday, where he thanked the court deputy who helped him at the defense table before prosecutors launch their opening statements. Weinstein, who wore a navy blue suit and glasses, occasionally glanced at Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing several of his accusers, who sat in the gallery.

Thompson read aloud several harrowing quotes from Weinstein accusers who were set to testify against him. They described Weinstein groping them, stripping and raping them despite their pleas to stop. All of the women, prosecutors said, were terrified of talking about Weinstein’s inescapable presence in the entertainment industry.

“You’re going to hear from eight different women who were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein in Los Angeles,” Thompson said, though he didn’t mention Jane Doe 5 or her allegations against Weinstein, despite prosecutors including five women’s allegations. in the criminal case. . “Each of these women came forward independently of each other, and none of them knew each other.”

Thompson added that although all of the women told friends and family about the alleged assaults, they did not publicly accuse Weinstein of wrongdoing until after the MeToo movement exploded in 2017. Prosecutors say this It wasn’t until this critical period, which revealed the most powerful men in Hollywood – that women felt comfortable exposing the man once called “the king”.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The juror who convicted Weinstein predicts his final downfall

“They feared he could crush their careers if they reported what he had done to her,” Assistant District Attorney Paul Thompson said in opening statements Monday morning.

Detailing each woman’s accusations, prosecutors noted that Siebel Newsom, who first detailed her allegations in a 2017 HuffPost essay, believed she was meeting Weinstein at his hotel suite for a business meeting to “discuss of her career”.

Prosecutors say Weinstein referred that day to “a list of A-List actresses he allegedly made a career out of, and his voice went from pleading to aggressive and demanding” before forcing her to lie on bed and forcibly rape her.

“She couldn’t utter any words because of her fear,” Thompson said of the alleged attack, adding that Weinstein told her to “relax.” [because] it will make her feel better.

Elizabeth Fegan – who represents several accusers in the case, including Siebel Newsom – said in a statement on Monday that “convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein and his enablers are once again resorting to their despicable, desperate and dishonest playbook of attacking the victim”.

“The defense ruthlessly engages in misogynistic slurs and victim-shaming – but survivors will not be deterred – and Weinstein should be found guilty again,” Fegan added.

Lauren Young, who testified in the New York trial that convicted Weinstein of rape and sexual assault, has also been identified as one of the Jane Does who will speak in the new case. She previously testified that in February 2013, when she was 23, Weinstein trapped her in a hotel room in Beverly Hills before groping her and masturbating on the floor.

“I stood there in shock…and went to the door. By then he was already undressed and he came forward in front of me with his naked body…I felt so trapped” , Young said in 2020, serving as a role model witness in the New York case.

The other three Jane Does whose allegations are part of the lawsuit have yet to be identified, but they include an Italian model who alleges Weinstein attacked her in a hotel room after a film festival in 2013.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe 1 at the booth, collapsed on the booth describing how Weinstein sexually assaulted her after the two briefly met at the Los Angeles Italia Film Festival. She said that night she was shocked when Weinstein showed up in the hotel room and loudly asked to come in.

She alleged that Weinstein then became aggressive, before eventually demanding that she perform oral sex on him despite his pleas to stop.

“I was freaking out,” she said, holding back tears. “He became a different person.”

As the jury left the courtroom on Monday, Jane Doe 1 held her head in her hands. She is expected to continue her testimony on Tuesday.

Another accuser, identified as Ashley M., alleges Weinstein attacked her after a 2004 movie premiere in Puerto Rico.

“Harvey Weinstein’s LA trial began today. It’s far worse than what he faced in New York. May he rot in jail until the end of his life,” the statement said. actress Ellen Barkin, who publicly accused Weinstein of verbal abuse and attended his trial in New York. tweeted monday. Barkin also notably testified against Johnny Depp in his civil libel lawsuit against Amber Heard, where both actors detailed heartbreaking allegations of abuse.

In addition to the five women at the heart of the charges against Weinstein, prosecutors are expected to call at least 50 witnesses to testify. Some of them will be women who have accused Weinstein of assault but whose allegations are not part of the criminal case. Prosecutors will call these “prior wrongdoings” from witnesses to establish Weinstein’s pattern of predatory behavior, a tactic that has helped convict predators across the country in recent years.

Corroborating witnesses include Ambra Battilana Guiterrez, who alleges Weinstein assaulted her in 2015. Unlike the other women in the case, however, Gutierrez cooperated with an NYPD sting operation that ultimately led to the arrest of Weinstein, although no charges were ultimately filed at the time.

The jury heard Monday the lengthy audio recording of the sting operation, in which Weinstein promises to help Gutierrez’s career. Gutierrez alleges that while he was making those professional promises, he groped her.

“Don’t embarrass me at the hotel. I’m here all the time,” Weinstein can be heard in the recording. “Five minutes. Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.

At another point in the recording, Weinstein appears to threaten her, adding, “If you don’t trust me, we have no reason to do anything and you will lose great opportunities.”

According to Los Angeles Times, Norwegian model Natassia Malthe is also among corroborating witnesses expected to testify that Weinstein raped her in 2008 during the British Academy of Film and Television Awards. Prosecutors said Monday that Natassia’s friend, director David Nutter, will also testify.

“I stood still and closed my eyes and just wanted it to be over,” Malthe said at a press conference in 2017. “I was like a dead person.”

Weinstein’s legal team has yet to reveal who they plan to call to refute the allegations. But one of his lawyers previously told the Daily Beast: “We are confident that once the jury hears the details of these allegations, they will see that they either did not happen or are fabricated, or that they did not happen as they say they did.

The defense was scheduled to begin opening statements on Monday afternoon.

The latest trial against Weinstein in Los Angeles once seemed ceremonial, after the disgraced tycoon was sentenced in New York just months before the pandemic lockdown. But the New York State Court of Appeals agreed in August to allow him to appeal his conviction – which carries a 23-year sentence – next year.

“We will definitely be following the LA case closely,” Donna Rotunno, lead counsel in Weinstein’s New York trial, told The Daily Beast on Monday.

Rotunno, a self-proclaimed feminist who has denigrated the MeToo movement, specifically pointed to expected testimony from Young, the accuser who appeared in the New York case. Essentially, she suggested, Weinstein’s attorneys would keep an eye out in hopes of identifying some sort of inconsistency.

“It could open a Pandora’s box from a caller’s perspective,” she said.

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