The second trial of Harvey Weinstein is underway in Los Angeles, and will hear testimony from nine women
Opening arguments have been given, and the jury have heard from Jane Doe #1 in a trial that’s expected to last up to two months.
The following article may contain details some readers may find upsetting.
The 70-year-old disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year sentence after being convicted of rape and sexual assault in New York two years ago. In the Los Angeles trial — which began on Monday — Weinstein faces eleven charges of rape and sexual assault relating to five women between 2004 and 2013. A conviction in this trial will ensure that he never walks free.
In addition to the five women who have brought charges of rape and sexual assault against Weinstein, a further four women will take to the stand as supporting witnesses. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to four counts of forcible rape, four counts of forcible oral copulation, two counts of sexual battery by restraint, and one count of sexual penetration by use of force.
Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of abuse has been well documented by the New York Times, the New Yorker and the 100 plus women who have spoken out against him since the first official allegations were made in October 2017, just over five years ago. The Hollywood mogul reportedly preyed on young aspiring models and actresses, allegedly luring them to hotel rooms under the guise of professional development. Of the many women that have made accusations against Weinstein, experiences vary from inappropriate comments and unwanted advances to groping, sexual assault, and rape.
Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 New York trial dealt with charges from former Project Runway assistant Miriam Haleyi and former actress Jessica Mann. The jury heard from a total of six women who detailed and supported the claims. Essentially, the LA trial will provide a much wider scope, a more complex analysis, and a more sprawling account of his behaviours.
On Monday, 24 October, opening arguments were made in Weinstein’s LA trial. Similarly to the New York trial, Weinstein’s defence attorney Mark Werksman argued that his client’s “casting couch” arrangement was the Hollywood norm before #MeToo. “Look at my client,” he told the court, according to Variety. “He’s not Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Do you think these beautiful women had sex with him because he’s hot? No, it’s because he’s powerful.”
The defence are arguing that these encounters were consensual and “transactional”, pursued by these women with a view to obtaining a higher status, a quicker route to fame, and a foot in the door to Hollywood. “You’ll learn that in Hollywood, sex was a commodity,” Mr Werksman said.
On the other side of the courtroom, prosecutors maintained that Weinstein exploited his power to ensure his victims’ silence. “They feared that he could crush their careers if they reported what he had done to him,” deputy district attorney Paul Thompson said of the witnesses, per the New York Times.
The jury — which comprises nine men and three women — were played a lengthy audio recording from a sting operation conducted by the NYPD and Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, which led to Weinstein’s arrest, but no charges, at that time. Weinstein could be heard giving Gutierrez career advice and promising to help her as an actress, as he allegedly groped her breast. “Don’t embarrass me in the hotel. I’m here all the time,” Weinstein says. When Gutierrez says she is uncomfortable, Weinstein swears on his children he is “not going to do anything,” before appearing to threaten her. “Five minutes. Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes … If you don’t trust me, then we have no reason to do anything, and you will lose big opportunities.”
According to Variety, the first woman to testify in court broke down in tears during her testimony as she detailed her alleged sexual assault and rape by the former producer and convicted rapist.
Known as Jane Doe #1 (four other Jane Does will take to the stand throughout the course of the trial), the woman claims to have been assaulted by Weinstein in 2013 at the Los Angeles Italia Film Festival during Oscars weekend. After a high profile event, she alleges that Weinstein showed up unannounced to her hotel and forced his way into her room.
She told the court that she doesn’t know how he knew her whereabouts and that she had only spoken a few words to him at the event. She goes on to say that Weinstein forced himself into the hotel room and sat next to her on the bed. He took off his jacket and requested a massage. “I asked him to go,” she said, saying that Weinstein didn’t listen and instead moved closer to her. “When he came to the bed, he became a different person,” she testified. “I started to be more direct and ask him to go away.”
“He became more physical … He opened his pants, he [held] my hand and he was touching himself,” she said. “I was panicking and started crying … He didn’t care.” As the line of questioning continued, more disturbing details were given and Jane Doe #1 became more visibly upset as she recounted her experiences. Her time on the stand lasted three gruelling days, and during her second day of testifying, she apologised for her “breakdown” the day prior. “Unfortunately, I cannot control this,” she said.
On day two, Jane Doe #1 provided graphic details of rape by Weinstein, and recalled feeling “disgusted” and “humiliated” by his comments and actions. She told the prosecution that she told her children’s nanny in Italy, a close friend, and a priest. She recounts attempting to go about her life as normal, but “dark days” left her feeling guilty and wanting to punish herself.
During cross examination, Weinstein’s defence attorney Alan Jackson questioned how Weinstein knew her whereabouts, why she didn’t bring “this terrible breach of protocol” to the attention of hotel management, and why she decided to remain in the room for the rest of her stay in LA. He also pushed on the lack of forensic evidence. Jane Doe #1 went to the police in October of 2017 during a time where there was an outpour of women coming forward with their own experiences with Weinstein. Though his defence implied this this influenced her decision to report the incident, the woman maintains that she came forward at the encouragement of her teenage daughter.
The Harvey Weinstein LA trial is sent to continue for up to two months.