Prosecution rests case at Harvey Weinstein sex assault trial
LOS ANGELES - Prosecutors in Los Angeles rested their case Thursday in the trial of Harvey Weinstein, who they allege raped two women and sexually assaulted two others.
The move from Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson came after nearly four weeks of testimony from 44 witnesses.
Weinstein is charged with crimes against four of them: one a model, another a model and actor, a third a massage therapist.
The fourth, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker who was an actor at the time of her alleged rape and is now married to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, provided the most dramatic moments at the trial so far with her emotional testimony.
Four other women who are not involved with the charges testified that Weinstein sexually assaulted them, as prosecutors sought to show he had a propensity for such acts.
Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench denied a motion from Weinstein’s lawyers to dismiss all of the counts against Weinstein, which they said prosecutors failed to prove.
"We are nearing the end of this case if you haven’t already picked up on that fact," Lench told the jurors, who will get Thanksgiving week off and return for testimony by defense witnesses on Nov. 28.
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She warned them not to consume any trial-related media singling out "any movie trailers that may be related to this case or movies that may be related to this case – well, not related to this case, but related to this issue."
Without saying the name of the movie, she was clearly referring to the Friday release of "She Said," a film about the New York Times reporting of the 2017 stories that put Weinstein at the center of the #MeToo movement.
Once the jury was excused, Weinstein’s lawyer entered a new not guilty plea for him to an amended indictment that drops four of the 11 previous counts against him. The move became necessary when prosecutors said earlier this week that the accuser known in court as Jane Doe #5 would not be appearing to testify and that the counts would no longer be pursued. They would not give a reason when asked.
Weinstein spokesman Juda Engelmayer said in response to the dropped charges that "this witness could have felt uneasy about being scrutinized knowing the truth of the matter."
Nor did prosecutors explain why Mel Gibson was missing. They never called the actor, director and one of the trial’s most anticipated witnesses to the stand. The judge had ruled at the start of trial that Gibson could testify about a conversation he had with the massage therapist Weinstein is charged with sexually assaulting.
In moving to have them dismissed, Weinstein attorney Alan Jackson went through the seven remaining counts against his client, and provided a likely preview of the defense’s closing arguments.
Jackson said the allegations that in 2013 Weinstein raped and sexually assaulted an Italian model known at the trial as Jane Doe 1 were especially unfounded, arguing that there is no convincing evidence that "the interlude occurred at all."
Jackson said there was no evidence that there was "any restraint whatsoever," as required for a count of sexual battery, in the part of the case involving model Lauren Young.
Young, the only Weinstein accuser to testify at his trials in both New York and Los Angeles, said she was paralyzed by fear when Weinstein blocked her from leaving the bathroom, masturbated in front of her and groped her breasts in a hotel in 2013.
Jackson said there was ample evidence, including emails the two exchanged in the ensuing years, that Siebel Newsom and Weinstein had a consensual sexual encounter that she later reframed as rape.
"The defendant’s motion is denied," Lench responded. "I think there is enough evidence to send all these counts to the jury, and I will do so."
Weinstein is two years into a 23-year sentence for his conviction in New York, and has been held in a Los Angeles jail throughout the trial.
The Associated Press typically does not publish the names of people alleging sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as Young and Siebel Newsom have done through their lawyers.