Prosecutors said in opening statements Monday in Harvey Weinstein’s second criminal trial that eight women will testify in court that they were sexually assaulted by the powerful Hollywood mogul.
“Each of these women came forward independently of each other, and none of them knew each other,” prosecutor Paul Thompson told the jury, according to a pool report.
Four of the women’s testimonies will directly relate to specific charges. These women understand Jennifer Siebel Newsom, filmmaker and wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom; Jane Doe 1, model and actress who lived in Italy at the time; Jane Doe 2, a 23-year-old aspiring model and screenwriter; and Jane Doe 3, a licensed massage therapist, according to a pool report.
The most recent indictment in the case said there were five women directly linked to the charges. CNN is working to clarify the difference between this indictment and the prosecutors’ opening statements.
Additionally, four women will testify as “prior wrongdoing” witnesses, meaning their testimony is not tied 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 to assaults outside of Los Angeles jurisdiction, Thompson said.
In opening statements for the defense, attorney Mark Werksman described the prosecution case as a “firehose” of allegations that will crumble on close inspection. He said Jane Doe 1 and 2 fabricated their stories and Siebel Newsom and Jane Doe 3 had consensual sex with Weinstein.
“The massive size of this case and the large number of accusers are not the result of careful investigation…prosecution based on the facts,” he said.
Weinstein, 70, pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and forced oral copulation related to incidents dating from 2004 to 2013, according to the indictment. In court on Monday, he appeared bent over as he climbed from a wheelchair into a chair at the defense table. Dressed in a suit and tie, he mostly watched the jurors throughout the proceedings.
After the overtures, Jane Doe 1 took the stand as the first witness and accused Weinstein of assault. She said she was staying at a hotel for the Los Angeles Italia film festival in February 2013 when she got a call that Weinstein, whom she barely knew, wanted to see her. Inside her bedroom, she asked him to leave but he grabbed her by the hair and forced her to perform oral sex, she testified.
“I was crying, I was choking,” she said.
She burst into tears in court, leading the judge to end the day’s testimony.
The lawsuit in California is his second sexual assault case since the report of The New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017 exposed 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 Hollywood’s most powerful men and helped produce such films as ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Clerks’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’.
The revelations led to a wave of women speaking out publicly about the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and harassment in what has become known as the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein was 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 claimed his innocence, and the city of New York the highest court accepted in August to hear his appeal in this 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 kind of dragged into the bedroom,” he said, quoting a woman, according to the pool report.
Thompson also pointed to women’s understanding of Weinstein’s imposing physical size as well as his power in Hollywood to make or break careers, according to the pool report.
“I was afraid that if I didn’t play well, something might happen in the room or out of the room because of his power in the industry,” one woman said, according to Thompson.
The women reportedly told friends and family about their assaults, and those people could also be called to testify at trial to confirm or deny such conversations.
Notably, the licensed massage therapist spoke to 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. He did it. They did it. Because each wanted something from the other,” he said.
He took particular aim at Siebel Newsom and attacked his credibility using foul language.
“She’s made herself a high profile victim in the #MeToo movement…otherwise she’d just be another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood,” Werksman said.
The trial in Los Angeles comes two years after Weinstein was convicted in New York of similar charges involving different women.
The New York charges were based on testimony from Miriam Haley, who said Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006 at her Manhattan apartment, and Jessica Mann, who testified he raped her in 2013 during what she described as an abusive relationship. .
He did not testify in his own defense, but during his sentencing he gave an unexpected and rambling speech that oscillated between remorse, defense of his actions and confusion.
“I’m not going to say they’re not great people, I had a wonderful time with these people, you know,” Weinstein said of the women who accused him of assault. “It’s just that I’m totally confused, and I think men are confused about all these questions.”
The former film producer appeared in poor health during the trial and used a walker when entering and leaving court each day. He used a wheelchair to get to sentencing in March 2020 as well as in a Los Angeles court hearing in July 2021. His lawyers argued that the long prison term was a de facto life sentence due to his failing health.