Harvey Weinstein’s L.A. sex crimes trial opens with jury selection

Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who is already serving more than two decades in prison for a rape conviction in New York, faces new sex crimes charges in Los Angeles in a trial that could last several weeks.

Jury selection began on Monday in the sprawling case that could favor the downfall of Weinstein, the once mighty Hollywood producer. The new lawsuit is also likely to shine a new light on the #MeToo movement, which has spurred consideration of sexual assault in the film industry and across a wide range of workplaces and institutions.

Los Angeles County Prosecutors Finished the range of loads in a Indictment in 11 counts which accuses Weinstein of sexually assaulting five women in separate incidents from 2004 to 2013. The trial will cover four counts of rape and seven counts of sexual assault, and the women will be identified during the proceedings as Jane Does 1 to 5 .

At least one of the women considering testifying has come forward publicly: former actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom. Representatives for Siebel Newsom told NBC News that she will be speaking as Jane Doe 4.

Weinstein, 70, has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces life in prison in California.

In court on Monday, he entered a wheelchair through a side door and carefully climbed to a seat next to one of his lawyers at the defense table. He wore a blue suit, which he is allowed to change from his prison attire during the trial.

The outcome of the Los Angeles trial could prove pivotal in the larger case against Weinstein, after the New York State Court of Appeals agreed in August to allow him to appeal his conviction for third degree rape and one count of a first degree criminal sexual act. , paving the way for oral arguments in front of the full court next year.

If his conviction in New York is upheld, Weinstein would continue to serve the remainder of his 23-year sentence. If he is overthrown, his fate behind bars will depend on his sentencing in Los Angeles.

Weinstein has maintained he is innocent of the various charges, and he said in a previous statement through a spokesperson that he is “very grateful to my attorneys for working hard and smart on this file. “, adding, “Their hard work will help me prove my innocence in the end.

Weinstein is represented by a different legal team in Los Angeles than in New York. One of his attorneys, Mark Werksman, did not say whether Weinstein would testify or name any defense witnesses he could call.

During a preliminary hearing, Werksman indicated that Weinstein was already disadvantaged by a wave of criticism and bad press.

“This case is unique,” Werksman said, according to The Associated Press. “Mr. Weinstein’s notoriety and his place in our culture at the center of the firestorm that is the #MeToo movement is real, and we are trying to do everything we can to avoid having a lawsuit when there is a whirlwind of negative publicity against him.”

The initial sentencing in New York stemmed from allegations made by two women: former aspiring actress Jessica Mann and former “Project Runway” model Mimi Haley.

In total, more than 100 women have accused Weinstein, the Oscar-winning producer behind ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘The King’s Speech,’ of sexual misconduct dating back decades, though the charges in New York are mostly based on allegations by Mann and Haley. , who each testified at his trial.

In the Los Angeles case, Weinstein was accused of raping a woman in a hotel between September 2004 and September 2005, raping another woman twice in November 2009 and November 2010 at a hotel in Beverly Hills , of sexually assaulting another woman at a Beverly Hills hotel in May 2010 and sexually assaulting two women in 2013 in separate incidents.

It was during Oscars week in 2013 – when Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for Weinstein Co.’s “Silver Linings Playbook”. and Quentin Tarantino would win for writing the company’s “Django Unchained” — that four of the 11 incidents allegedly took place, according to the dates listed in the indictment.

NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos said prosecutors may be challenged to meet their burden of proof because some of the allegations date back nearly two decades.

But Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench ruled in a preliminary hearing that four other women could also testify as prosecution witnesses about “prior wrongdoing” Weinstein allegedly committed. The defense, however, could use such legal maneuvers on appeal, Cevallos added.

“Proceed with caution, prosecutions,” he said. “Use evidence of past wrongdoing at your own risk.”

Siebel Newsom accused Weinstein of “aggressive advances” in a HuffPost Essay in 2017. Further details of Siebel Newsom’s interactions with Weinstein have not been made public, although the indictment says Weinstein was charged with rape and another count of sexual assault against Jane Doe 4 in an incident between September 2004 and 2005.

Siebel Newsom shares four children with her husband, whom she married in 2008, and later made documentaries about gender in society.

“Like many other women, my client was sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein during an alleged business meeting that turned out to be a trap,” attorney Beth Fegan said in a statement. “She intends to testify at her trial to seek justice for survivors and as part of her life’s work to improve the lives of women. Please respect her choice not to discuss this issue further in outside the courtroom.”

Investigative journalists from The New York Times and the new yorker first reported a flood of allegations against Weinstein five years ago, fueling the global movement to expose the sexual misconduct of powerful men in entertainment, media, finance and other high profile industries .

Another high-profile Hollywood-related trial resumes this week in New York, where “Star Trek: Discovery” star Anthony Rapp is suing Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey. In the civil lawsuit, Rapp accused Spacey of sexually abusing him in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. In pretrial court documents, Spacey denied the incident happened.

Martin E. Berry