Prosecutors said in opening statements of Harvey Weinstein’s second criminal trial Monday that eight women will testify in court they were sexually assaulted by the powerful Hollywood mogul.
“Each of these women came forward independent of each other, and none of them knew one another,” prosecutor Paul Thompson told the jury, according to a pool report.
Four of the women’s testimony will be directly connected to specific charges. These women include Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a filmmaker and the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom; Jane Doe 1, a model and actress who lived in Italy at the time; Jane Doe 2, a 23-year-old model and aspiring screenwriter; and Jane Doe 3, a licensed massage therapist, according to a pool report.
The most recent indictment in the case indicated there were five women directly connected to charges. CNN is working to clarify the difference between that indictment and the prosecutors’ opening statements.
In addition, four women will testify as “prior bad acts” witnesses, meaning their testimony isn’t related to a specific charge but can be used by the jury as prosecutors try to show Weinstein had a pattern in his actions. These women will testify about assaults outside of Los Angeles jurisdiction, Thompson said.
In the defense’s opening statements, attorney Mark Werksman described the prosecution’s case as a “firehose” of allegations that will each fall apart upon close inspection. He said Jane Doe 1 and 2 fabricated their stories and said Siebel Newsom and Jane Doe 3 had consensual sexual relationship with Weinstein.
“The massive size of this case and the vast number of accusers is not the result of a carefully investigated … fact-driven prosecution,” he said.
Weinstein, 70, has pleaded not guilty to charges including rape and forcible oral copulation related to incidents dating from 2004 to 2013, according to the indictment. In court Monday, he appeared hunched over as he clambered from a wheelchair into a chair at the defense table. Wearing a suit and tie, he primarily looked at jurors throughout the proceedings.
After openings, Jane Doe 1 took the stand as the first witness and accused Weinstein of assault. She said she was staying in a hotel for the Los Angeles Italia film festival in February 2013 when she got a call that Weinstein, who she barely knew, wanted to see her. Inside her room, she asked him to leave but he grabbed her by the hair and forced her to perform oral sex, she testified.
“I was crying, choking,” she said.
She broke into sobs in court, leading the judge to end testimony for the day.
The trial in California is his second such sexual assault case since reporting by The New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017 revealed Weinstein’s alleged history of sexual abuse, harassment and secret settlements as he used his influence as a Hollywood power broker to take advantage of young women.
At the time, Weinstein was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood and helped produce movies such as “Pulp Fiction,” “Clerks” and “Shakespeare in Love.”
The revelations led to a wave of women speaking publicly about the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and harassment in what became known as the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein was found guilty in 2020 in New York of first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape and was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Yet he has maintained his innocence, and New York’s highest court agreed in August to hear his appeal in the case.
Prosecution and defense lays out the case
In the prosecution’s opening statements, Thompson outlined the women’s accusations and noted the similarities in their stories. The women will testify that Weinstein lured them into private meetings, often in hotel rooms, and then sexually assaulted them, Thompson said.
“I’m shaking and I’m kind of being dragged to the bedroom,” he quoted one woman as saying, according to the pool report.
Thompson also highlighted the women’s understanding of Weinstein’s imposing physical size as well as his power in Hollywood to make or break careers, the pool report said.
“I was scared that if I didn’t play nice something could happen in the room or out of the room because of his power in the industry,” one woman said, according to Thompson.
The women allegedly told friends and family members about their assaults, and those people may also be called to testify in the trial to confirm or deny such conversations.
Notably, the licensed massage therapist told Mel Gibson, the famed actor and director, about her assault, Thompson said.
For the defense’s opening statements, Werksman said there was no forensic evidence to support any of the allegations. He said the sexual interactions were transactional and consensual.
“It was the casting couch. Everyone did it. He did it. They did it. Because each wanted something from another,” he said.
He took particular aim at Siebel Newsom and attacked her credibility using crude language.
“She’s made herself a prominent victim in the #MeToo movement … otherwise she’d be just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood,” Werksman said.
What happened in the New York case
The trial in Los Angeles comes two years after Weinstein was convicted in New York of similar charges featuring different women.
The New York charges were based on testimony from Miriam Haley, who testified that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006 at his Manhattan apartment, and from Jessica Mann, who testified that he raped her in 2013 during what she described as an abusive relationship.
He did not testify in his own defense, but at his sentencing he offered an unexpected, rambling speech which oscillated between remorse, defense of his actions and confusion.
“I’m not going to say these aren’t great people, I had wonderful times with these people, you know,” Weinstein said of the women who accused him of assault. “It is just I’m totally confused, and I think men are confused about all of these issues.”
The former movie producer appeared in frail health during the trial and used a walker as he arrived to and left court each day. He used a wheelchair to arrive to the sentencing in March 2020 as well as in a court hearing in Los Angeles in July 2021. His attorneys have argued the lengthy prison sentence was a de facto life sentence due to his failing health.