Harvey Weinstein found guilty of rape and sexual assault in Los Angeles trial

Tuesday - 20/12/2022 06:57 Author: Editors Desk
The downfall of the former movie magnate played out over a six-week trial that included testimony from Jennifer Siebel Newsom
A Los Angeles jury has reached a verdict in the Harvey Weinstein case after a six-week trial. Photograph: Reuters
A Los Angeles jury has reached a verdict in the Harvey Weinstein case after a six-week trial. Photograph: Reuters

A Los Angeles jury has found Harvey Weinstein guilty of rape and sexual assault, five years after dozens of women spoke out against the Hollywood producer and galvanized the #MeToo movement.

After more than nine days of deliberation, the jury convicted Weinstein of three counts of rape and sexual assault against one woman, a European model and actor who testified anonymously as “Jane Doe 1”, while remaining divided on three other charges of rape and sexual assault by two other accusers, including Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California’s governor. Weinstein was also acquitted of a sexual battery allegation made by a fourth woman.

The guilty verdict on some of the most serious charges in the Los Angeles case, including forcible rape, seals the downfall of the former Hollywood powerbroker in the town where he once operated as a “king”. Weinstein, 70, who is already serving a 23-year prison sentence after a criminal conviction in New York in 2020, now faces a maximum of 18 to 24 additional years in prison, and is expected to spend the rest of his life incarcerated, no matter the outcome of his current appeal of his conviction in New York.

But the jury’s inability to reach a verdict about the criminality of Weinstein’s actions toward two women, including Siebel Newsom, whose husband is widely expected to eventually run for president, may be a difficult outcome for some of the more than 90 women who have spoken out about being sexually assaulted or sexually harassed by Weinstein over the course of his decades-long career.

“Throughout the trial, Weinstein’s lawyers used sexism, misogyny, and bullying tactics to intimidate, demean, and ridicule us survivors,” Siebel Newsom said in a statement after the verdict. “This trial was a stark reminder that we as a society have work to do.”

The verdict marks the second time Weinstein has been found guilty of sex crimes. The jury in Weinstein’s criminal trial in New York arrived at a similar mixed verdict, convicting the former producer of rape in the third degree and sexual assault, but acquitting him of predatory sexual assault and first degree rape.

A Los Angeles jury convicted Weinstein on all three charges involving Jane Doe 1, who had testified that Weinstein had unexpectedly showed up at her hotel room door during a 2013 Los Angeles film festival, and forced her to perform oral sex then forcibly raped her. Her emotional testimony, in which she described her feelings of shame, guilt and self-destruction, left her sobbing so hard on the stand on her first day of testimony that the judge adjourned court early.

Weinstein’s defense team had argued that her account was completely fabricated, and responded by showing the jury images of the upbeat social media posts she had made in the days following the alleged attack.

“The criminal trial was brutal and Weinstein’s lawyers put me through hell on the witness stand, but I knew I had to see this through to the end, and I did,” Jane Doe 1 said in a statement after the verdict.

“Harvey Weinstein forever destroyed a part of me that night in 2013 and I will never get that back,” she said.

The jury’s inability to reach a verdict on three of the seven criminal charges Weinstein faced, involving two different alleged victims, followed weeks of graphic, emotional testimony from a total of eight women who testified that Weinstein raped or sexually assaulted them at hotels around the world, many of them during what they thought would be networking meetings about opportunities in the film industry. Weinstein only faced criminal charges in the case for the alleged assaults that happened in California, involving four of the women.

Some of the most emotional testimony of the trial came from Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker who is now married to the governor of California, Gavin Newsom.

Siebel Newsom testified that Weinstein assaulted and raped her during what she thought would be a business meeting in a hotel in 2005, when she was a young actor and producer still trying to find her way in the industry. Siebel Newsom wept repeatedly on the stand, calling the alleged attack “her worst nightmare”, and faced an aggressive cross-examination from Weinstein’s defense, who presented her as someone who had engaged in consensual sex to advance her career, and, in their opening statement, referred to her as a “bimbo.”

The jury could not reach a verdict on whether Weinstein forcibly raped and assaulted Siebel Newsom, resulting in a mistrial on those charges, and also could not reach a verdict on whether Weinstein had assaulted Jane Doe 2, another young model and aspiring screenwriter in a bathroom, after what she thought would be a business meeting.

Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing Jane Doe 2, said after the verdict that her client was “100% committed to testifying again if she was asked to do so”, the New York Times reported.

Newsom, California’s governor, who was not allowed to be present in the courtroom during his wife’s testimony, said in a statement that he was “incredibly proud of my wife and all the brave women who came forward to share their truth and uplift countless survivors who cannot”.

 
 Jennifer Siebel Newsom claps for her husband Governor Gavin Newsom after his inaugural State of the State address in Sacramento, California, in March 2022. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Jennifer Siebel Newsom claps for her husband Governor Gavin Newsom after his inaugural State of the State address in Sacramento, California, in March 2022. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP


The first partner of California “will continue to fight for all women and all survivors of abuse against a system that permits the victim to be shamed and retraumatized in the name of justice”, Elizabeth Fegan, an attorney for Siebel Newsom, said in a statement. Fegan criticized Weinstein’s defense for highlighting the continued professional emails correspondence and other professional interactions Siebel Newsom had had with Weinstein after the alleged rape, arguing that their defense suggested that “a woman who is assaulted must forego her chosen career or be accused of consent after the fact”.

“Harvey Weinstein will never be able to rape another woman. He will spend the rest of his life behind bars where he belongs,” Siebel Newsom said in a statement.

Throughout the trial, the prosecution painted a picture of Weinstein as a “predator” who used a pattern of manipulation and coercion to snare his prey. “For this predator, hotels were his trap,” said Marlene Martinez, an attorney in the case, during closing arguments. She pointed to patterns in testimony from the women who described Weinstein approaching and attacking them in similar ways.

Martinez said that Weinstein’s accusers were pursuing their dreams in Hollywood, but “at the end of that dream was the monster at the end of that table”.

‘He can’t do this to anyone else’

Weinstein, who chose not to testify, appeared shrunken and pale sitting in court as the weeks went on. As the first guilty verdicts were read on Monday, he appeared to put his head in his hands.

The 70-year-old had pleaded not guilty to all charges, and his attorneys staged an aggressive defense, attacking the credibility of his accusers and labeling Siebel Newsom a “bimbo”.

Legal observers said the blatant misogyny of Weinstein’s defense was striking, and seemed like a flashback to the tactics of the 1980s.

Weinstein’s defense argued that two accusers had made up the testimony, and that the others had engaged in consensual, transactional sex that they were trying to retroactively label as assault. Weinstein’s team also hammered on graphic details including the sounds Siebel Newsom made during her alleged assault, as well as the accuracy of another accuser’s description of Weinstein’s genitalia.

In his closing arguments, defense attorney Alan Jackson warned the jurors not to be swayed by the influence of the #MeToo movement, and said that the testimony of eight different women had not produced evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that he had committed any crime.

“The truth is immutable. It’s not a feeling. It’s not a whim. It’s not a hashtag,” Jackson said. “The law is not captive to the shifting sands of a popular movement.”

Jackson called Siebel Newsom’s decision to speak out publicly against Weinstein in 2017, as other women had begun to speak out, a choice motivated by public perception: “She turned on him in a second, not because it was true, but because it was trendy,” Jackson said.
 

Harvey Weinstein at a pre-trial hearing Los Angeles. He appeared pale and diminished during the weeks-long trial. Photograph: Reuters
Harvey Weinstein at a pre-trial hearing Los Angeles. He appeared pale and diminished during the weeks-long trial. Photograph: Reuters
 

The Weinstein defense team’s personal attacks on Siebel Newsom, including the claims that “she must be lying, she must be doing it to get some personal gain” are the exact same tropes “that are used against all kinds of folks that we are supporting, truck drivers and agricultural workers and domestic workers”, said Jennifer Mondino, the director of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which provides assistance to people who have experienced workplace sexual harassment.

“These are some of the reasons survivors are reluctant to come forward … the fear that people are going to raise these same stereotypes about them,” Mondino said.

Robert Weisberg, a Stanford law professor who specializes in criminal law, said the general public tends to underestimate juries and how carefully they weigh the evidence and the standard of reasonable doubt for each charge in a big case.

If jurors know they’re going to convict a defendant on some counts, “and they have a vague sense of how long the sentence will be”, Weisberg said, they may also feel more comfortable acquitting the defendant on other counts they’re less sure of, “because it’s not all or nothing”.

Weinstein originally faced 11 rape and assault charges from a total of five accusers, but prosecutors said halfway through the trial that the fifth accuser would not be testifying, and dropped four charges related to her.

Weinstein’s latest conviction hands a victory to victims of sexual misconduct of famous men in the wake of some legal setbacks, including the dismissal of Bill Cosby’s conviction last year. The rape trial of That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson, held simultaneously and just down the hall from Weinstein’s, ended in a mistrial this month. And actor Kevin Spacey was victorious at a sexual battery civil trial in New York last month.

Because a New York court has agreed to hear an appeal of Weinstein’s conviction there, some of the dozens of women who have spoken out publicly against him have been worried that, like Bill Cosby, he could end up being released.

“If he was out right now, he would still be doing what he was doing before,” Dawn Dunning, 43, who testified in Weinstein’s New York trial, said ahead of the Los Angeles verdict. “It just worries me that’s even a possibility.”

To the women who testified in the New York trial, it “honestly didn’t matter” which counts the jury chose to convict on, and which they did not, Dunning said.

She said she expected the reaction of the women who testified in Los Angeles will be the same. “It doesn’t matter what the charges are,” she said. “We just want him to stay in prison so he can’t do this to anyone else.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

 Keywords: Harvey Weinstein

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