Closing arguments began Wednesday in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial in Los Angeles, following weeks of moving testimony that saw several women speak out, including the California governor’s wife.
Marlene Martinez, the prosecutor in the case, began her closing arguments with a photo of Weinstein smiling at the camera at the height of his power as a titan of the film industry. Sitting in the courtroom, Weinstein, looking shrunken and pale as a corpse, stared at the photo of himself on the screen.
The prosecutor then changed the on-screen photograph to an image of a yellow-eyed wolf. Harvey Weinstein was a predator, Martinez told the jury on Wednesday. And like all predators, she said, he had his tactics for trapping his prey. For this predator, hotels were his trap.
This week will see the second trial against the former film producer in as many years near its conclusion, with jury deliberations set to begin in the coming days. Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence for rape and sexual assault in New York and now faces seven additional charges against four other women in California.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges and mounted an aggressive defense, with his attorneys attacking the credibility of the women testifying against him and tagging his most prominent accuser, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker who is now married to the governor of California. , like a bimbo.
During the six-week trial, the jury heard painful and graphic testimony, including from four women who claim Weinstein raped or assaulted them at hotels in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. The trial also included testimony from four other women, who were brought in by prosecutors to establish an alleged pattern of Weinstein’s behavior, although Weinstein does not face criminal charges in Los Angeles related to their testimony. These women backed up the accounts of the California accusers with testimony about similar assaults by Weinstein elsewhere, including in Toronto, Puerto Rico and London.
The two women who accuse Weinstein of forcible rape repeatedly collapsed on the stand during their testimony, with the first accuser crying so intensely that the judge adjourned the hearing for the day.
Recapping the weeks of emotional testimonies, Martinez pointed out how similar the women’s accounts were and how often Weinstein was described making the same arguments to replay the same moves, such as inviting a woman to meet at a place. audience in a hotel, then move the meeting to their hotel room.
These are eight women who do not know each other, she says. They all describe the same behavior, by the same person.
Martinez replayed an audio recording of Weinstein talking to an Italian model in New York, trying to persuade her to walk into a hotel room with him after he allegedly touched her breasts during a business meeting the night before. How many times does he hear her say no, but he resists? said the prosecutor.
No didn’t mean no for Harvey, she said. Red didn’t mean stop for Harvey. Aspiring actresses, writers and producers who agreed to business meetings with Weinstein were doing nothing wrong, Martinez said.
Like many people in Los Angeles, they were chasing their dreams, she said, and little did they know that at the end of that dream was the monster at the end of that table.
Different trial, similar tactics
Although Weinstein, 70, looked pale and shrunken in the courtroom after years in prison, his legal strategy hadn’t seemed to change much since his New York rape trial. His lawyers engaged in grueling cross-examinations of his accusers, putting their memory and character on trial.
Weinstein’s defense attorneys argued that some alleged victims fabricated the attacks and others had consensual sex with Weinstein to advance their careers, and only began to describe their encounters with him as rape or assault as a result of the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein’s accusers in Los Angeles include an Italian model who says Weinstein showed up on her hotel room door late at night at a 2013 film festival, forced her to perform sex oral, then raped her. The woman, who was only identified in court as Jane Doe 1, testified that the attack left her with intense feelings of shame and guilt for deciding to open the door, and that it left her made me want to destroy himself.
Weinstein’s defense attorneys responded by showing the jury upbeat Instagram selfies the woman posted from the hotel room in the days after the alleged attack.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, California’s first partner, also testified that Weinstein assaulted and raped her during what she believed was a hotel business meeting in 2005, when she was a young actress and producer still trying to find his way in the industry. . Judge Lisa Lench clarified that Siebel Newsom’s husband, Gavin Newsom, could not be in the courtroom with her when she testified.
In grueling cross-examination, Weinstein’s attorneys questioned Siebel Newsom about graphic details of her testimony, including the sounds she made during the alleged rape, and showed the jury dozens of friendly commercial emails. whom she had sent to request meetings with Weinstein or seek his advice in the months and years that followed. The attorneys also questioned Siebel Newsom about political donations Weinstein made to her husband’s campaigns.
A third woman, who also testified at Weinstein’s trial in New York, said she met Weinstein at a hotel in 2013 for what she thought was a business meeting to pitch a script, and that Weinstein led her into a bathroom, took off her clothes, and started masturbating and groping her, even though she kept saying no.
A fourth woman, a massage therapist who specializes in celebrity clients, said that when she went to a bathroom to wash her hands after giving Weinstein a massage, he followed her into the room, walked away. masturbated in front of her and groped her.
Weinstein has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct by more than 90 women, who say he used his status as a Hollywood go-between to rape, assault and harass women in the industry, from aspiring actresses to some of the stars. most famous of his production company, and that for decades people around him allowed and covered up his behavior.
The lawsuit comes as She Said, the film dramatizing how dozens of women ultimately chose to speak out against sexual assaults by the powerful producer, generates Buzz at the Oscars.
Weinstein, who is serving a 23-year prison sentence for a rape and sexual assault conviction in New York, pleaded not guilty to the California charges and did not testify at trial. He continued to claim that all of his sexual encounters were consensual. If convicted on the new charges, Weinstein faces additional years in prison.
At his trial in New York, Weinstein’s sentencing came after he was found guilty on just two of the five counts against him, with the jury finding him not guilty on the most serious charges of predatory sexual assault. and first degree rape. Legal experts said the conviction was notable because the jury found Weinstein guilty of raping one woman and sexually assaulting another, even though both women testified to having ongoing relationships with Weinstein after they were assaulted.
New York’s highest court recently agreed to hear an appeal of his conviction.
In Los Angeles, a jury of nine men and three women will deliberate on the charges against Weinstein. During the jury selection process, one of the women on the jury said she was hesitant about the #MeToo movementnoting: I believe most women but not necessarily all.
Another of the jurors, an older man, expressed skepticism during the selection process about whether he could return a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case without DNA evidence, as prosecutors are asking in this trial. .
It’s kind of an ambiguous question, this juror said. It all depends on the type of attack.
The Associated Press contributed reports
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