Defense attorneys for disgraced former film producer Harvey Weinstein are set to begin presenting their case Monday in his trial on sex-related charges involving four women, including Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife.
Weinstein’s defense begins following Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench’s Nov. 17 decision to reject a bid by his attorneys to acquit him of all seven counts, with the judge saying she thought there was “enough evidence to send all these counts to the jury.”
Her ruling came on the same day the prosecution rested its case-in-chief against Harvey Weinstein and the jury was sent home for a Thanksgiving holiday break.
Weinstein, now 70, was indicted on 11 sex-related charges involving five women, including one count each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation involving Newsom’s wife, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
But Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson told the judge outside the jury’s presence on Nov. 15 that the prosecution was not going to proceed with four counts — two counts each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation involving “Jane Doe #5,” who had not been mentioned in the prosecution’s opening statement. Those charges were subsequently dismissed by the judge.
In emotional testimony during the prosecution’s case, Siebel Newsom told jurors she still lives with the trauma of being raped and sexually assaulted by Weinstein in a Beverly Hills hotel room 17 years ago.
Siebel Newsom — who was referred to in court only as “Jane Doe #4” but has been publicly identified by her attorney — wrapped up her second and final day on the witness stand with an emotional outburst when asked if she intended to have sex with Weinstein when she went to his suite at The Peninsulain September 2005.
“No!” she said, her voice filled with emotion.
She said she was shaking and crying, and that Weinstein told her, “Relax, relax, this is all going to be OK. This is going to relax you.”
When asked if she said “No” to Weinstein, she responded, “I did with my voice and with my body. I tried to get out of there. I tried to push him off of me I tried so hard.”
She shouted “No!” when asked if she consented to Weinstein performing the sex acts, and rushed off the stand while still crying after finishing her testimony.
“I had everything in a box and I’ve been slowly sharing a little bit at a time because this is so painful,” the governor’s wife said when asked by defense attorney Mark Werksman why she hadn’t revealed some details of the alleged attack at The Peninsula in September 2005 when she was initially questioned by police or when she testified before the grand jury that indicted Weinstein.
Werksman contended in his opening statement that two of the alleged victims named in the charges “just made it up” and that it was “transactional sex” for the other two women.
“You will see that these were all consensual sexual relations or, in some cases, they didn’t happen at all,” Werksman said. “Mr. Weinstein is an innocent man who is not guilty of the charges in this indictment.”
Of “Jane Doe #4,” Werksman said then that she has been a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement, and said that, “Otherwise, she’d be just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”
Weinstein began his entertainment career as a concert promoter and then, with his brother Bob, created Miramax Films, which produced a number of “iconic and award-winning films” including “Pulp Fiction,” “The English Patient,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Shakespeare In Love,” among others, Thompson noted in the prosecution’s opening statement. The movies launched the careers of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino and Gwyneth Paltrow, according to the prosecutor.
Weinstein’s attorney countered that the allegations “can be traced directly to the #MeToo movement,” and said that his client “became the epicenter of the #MeToo movement.”
Werksman told jurors Weinstein’s accusers were “women who willingly played the game by the rules applied back then” and now “claim they were raped and sexually assaulted.”
“He’s not Brad Pitt or George Clooney. He’s not hot,” Weinstein’s lawyer said. “They had sex with him because he was powerful.”
Weinstein was extradited from New York, where he was convicted of raping an aspiring actress and of a criminal sex act against a former production assistant. The state’s highest court has since agreed to hear his
appeal involving that case.
He remains behind bars.