Testimony resumes in Harvey Weinstein trial
LOS ANGELES - Testimony is set to resume Tuesday in the trial of Harvey Weinstein – one day after a prosecutor told jurors during opening statements that the former film producer sexually assaulted eight women between 1991 and 2015, including four he is charged with attacking in Los Angeles County, while Weinstein's defense attorney maintained his client is innocent.
Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson told the downtown Los Angeles jury that the women feared that Weinstein -- whom he described as the most powerful person in the entertainment industry at the time -- could crush their careers if they reported the allegations, but that one model came forward soon afterward to report the alleged attack on her in a New York hotel room in 2015.
The prosecutor told the nine-man, three-woman panel that it would hear testimony from four alleged victims in Los Angeles County, along with four alleged victims for whom Weinstein is not charged.
Meanwhile, Weinstein's attorney, Mark Werksman, countered that two of the victims named in the charges "just made it up" and that it was "transactional sex" for the other two women.
"You will see that these were all consensual sexual relations or, in some cases, they didn't happen at all," Werksman said. "Mr. Weinstein is an innocent man who is not guilty of the charges in this indictment."
He told jurors that the allegations "can be traced directly to the #MeToo movement," and said that his client "became the epicenter of the #MeToo movement."
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Werksman told the panel that Weinstein's accusers were "women who willingly played the game by the rules applied back then" and now "claim they were raped and sexually assaulted."
"He's not Brad Pitt or George Clooney. He's not hot," Weinstein's lawyer told jurors. "They had sex with him because he was powerful ..."
Weinstein, he said, "was once a very successful movie producer" whose "name was synonymous with Oscars and hit movies" -- but is now described as a "vile monster."
He noted that none of the alleged victims in the charges made their allegations to police until at least five years afterward, with one not coming forward for at least a decade.
Two of the alleged victims ended their emails to Weinstein after the alleged attacks with the letters "xxx," which he told jurors indicates "kiss, kiss, kiss."
Weinstein, now 70, was indicted on 11 charges -- including forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by a foreign object and sexual battery by restraint -- involving five women. But the prosecutor made no mention of Jane Doe #5, who is named in four of the counts in the grand jury's indictment, and the status of those charges was not immediately available.
In a statement, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said it had "no comment at this time" on the charges involving "Jane Doe #5," adding only that its office is "tirelessly ensuring that all of the victims in this case receive justice."
The prosecutor told jurors that each of the women came forward "independent of each other," and that none of them knew the other alleged victims.
"At the time this was the most powerful person in the industry," Thompson quoted one of the women as saying, while he said another referred to Weinstein as "the king."
Each of the alleged victims referred to the alleged attacks while talking to family members or friends, the deputy district attorney said, noting that those included actor-director Mel Gibson and actress Daphne Zuniga.
The prosecutor said one of the alleged victims -- Jane Doe #4 -- is now married to California's governor and showed a photo of Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife, but said she was a "powerless actor trying to make her way in Hollywood" when she met Weinstein 17 years ago.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who was not named during the court session, is expected to testify about the alleged attack in a hotel room at The Peninsula in Beverly Hills after initially meeting him at a film festival in Toronto in 2005.
"Jane Doe #4" reported that she was "crying and shaking" after Weinstein allegedly took her by the arm from a hotel room bathroom, pulled her onto the bed and told her, "Relax, this is going to make you feel better," according to the prosecutor.
The other three alleged victims from Los Angeles County also reported that they were isolated in the bathroom of a hotel room, Thompson said.
"Jane Doe #1" -- a model and actress who lived in Italy but was considering a move to Los Angeles -- was allegedly sexually assaulted by Weinstein after he knocked loudly on her hotel room door after briefly interacting with Weinstein at a film festival in February 2013, according to the prosecutor.
"Jane Doe #2," who was then a 23-year-old model and aspiring screenwriter, was allegedly groped by Weinstein two days later after he got in the shower during what she was told was going to be a meeting that involved her pitching a script to him, Thompson said.
"Jane Doe #3" -- a licensed massage therapist whose clients included celebrities -- reported that Weinstein groped her breasts and ejaculated on the floor after he followed her into a hotel room bathroom, where she was going to clean her hands after massaging him in 2010, the prosecutor told jurors.
Thompson read a series of quotes from the eight women, including, "I'm shaking and I'm kind of being dragged to the bedroom," "He ended up pushing me against the wall," "He's big. He's broad. He's overweight. He's domineering," and "I figured nobody would believe me. He's too powerful."'
The prosecutor noted that Weinstein began his entertainment career as a concert promoter and then, with his brother Bob, created Miramax Films, which produced a number of "iconic and award-winning films" including "Pulp Fiction," "The English Patient," "Good Will Hunting" and "Shakespeare In Love," among others.
The movies launched the careers of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino and Gwyneth Paltrow, Thompson said.
Weinstein's attorney agreed that his client was a "major player in Hollywood," but called him a "man of humble origins" who was "not born with a silver spoon in his mouth."
The defense lawyer said the evidence will reveal that the prosecution's case is a "firehose ... designed to shock and awe."
But Werksman told the panel that each individual accusation is a "weak and unsubstantiated trickle that will evaporate under your close scrutiny."
"The evidence in this case is based upon emotion, not facts," Werksman said, telling jurors that there were no eyewitnesses to the alleged attacks.
He noted that the prosecution is "going to bring some celebrities into this trial" to "try to harness some star power against Mr. Weinstein."
Jurors heard Monday afternoon from "Jane Doe 1," whose testimony was halted for the day after she broke down in tears discussing the alleged assault by Weinstein in February 2013. She told jurors that Weinstein showed up at her hotel and then at her hotel room -- purportedly to talk with her -- and said she was "terrified" when he took off his pants.
The woman, who is due back on the stand for more questioning Tuesday, said Weinstein disregarded her requests that he leave her hotel room, began to touch himself and told her to perform oral sex on him. She said she was scared and tried to stand up, only to be grabbed by the hair and pulled toward him.
"I was crying," she said.
Weinstein was extradited from New York, where he was convicted of raping an aspiring actress and of a criminal sex act against a former production assistant. The state's highest court has since agreed to hear his appeal involving that case.
Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench -- who described the charges as "essentially sexual assaults or assaults of a sexual nature" -- told prospective jurors that the trial is expected to last about two months, including the jury selection process, which began Oct. 10.
Weinstein, who was brought into court in a wheelchair while jurors were not present, remains behind bars.