Harvey Weinstein will not testify in his own defense at his Los Angeles rape trial and his attorneys are expected to close their case on Wednesday, meaning the disgraced mogul’s fate could be in the hands of the jury by the end of the week.
Attorney Mark Werksman said he plans to call just six witnesses, four of whom completed their testimony in a swift two hours in court Monday.
Weinstein’s decision not to testify is consistent with the defense strategy at the mogul’s New York trial, in which he also declined to comment. The only time Weinstein spoke publicly about the numerous allegations of sexual abuse that led to his professional downfall and eventual criminal prosecution was at his sentencing in 2020 after being convicted of a rape in Manhattan.
During that trial, he claimed he could not adequately defend himself because supporting witnesses had been silenced by media monitoring.
“People are losing their jobs for testifying for me… People who are afraid of losing their jobs is not the right atmosphere for the United States of America,” Weinstein said in 2020.
Weinstein, 70, is facing seven counts of rape and sexual assault arising from allegations by four women who say he groped or raped Gavin Newsom in hotels in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills between 2004 and 2013.
Weinstein originally faced 11 counts, but a fifth accuser chose not to testify, forcing prosecutors to drop four counts related to her allegations this month. If convicted as charged, Weinstein, who is serving a 23-year sentence in New York, would face a de facto life sentence in California.
Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said “less is more” for Weinstein’s defense team.
Given his New York conviction and the overwhelming amount of negative information available to juries about the disgraced Hollywood kingmaker, Levenson said his attorneys would do well to draw the jury’s attention to inconsistencies in his accusers’ testimonies to steer.
“The defense may feel that their best chance of undermining the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses is to find evidence that contradicts the prosecution, even on small counts,” she said. “This is a case where the credibility of prosecution witnesses is at stake. They’ll do what they can to challenge it without taking too many risks.”
A similar approach was taken by attorneys representing actor Danny Masterson, whose rape trial is taking place across the Weinstein courtroom. In this case, Masterson’s attorneys did not call defense witnesses and played their entire case through a fervent cross-examination of the three women who accused the “That ’70s Show” star of sexual assault.
On Monday, Werksman and co-counsel Alan Jackson called witnesses who questioned allegations made by a woman identified in court as Jane Doe 1, an Italian model who Weinstein accused Weinstein of hitting her after a 2013 film festival in for violently raping Beverly Hills.
A Los Angeles Fire Department official Monday confirmed reports that a fire alarm went off at Mr. C.’s hotel just after midnight on February 18, 2013, around the same time that Jane Doe 1 claims the sexual assault took place . On cross-examination, Jackson repeatedly brought up the fire alarm, which Jane Doe 1 said she did not hear.
“You didn’t hear the fire alarm because you weren’t in your room at 12:41 a.m.,” Jackson told Jane Doe 1 early in the trial.
The defense also attempted to question a former manager of Mr. C’s about a document allegedly showing that Jane Doe 1 had stayed at the same hotel five weeks later, under the same alias she used to book her reservation during the trip, on which Weinstein allegedly attacked her.
Jackson had tried to imply that no woman would behave like this after being violently raped in the same location, but Los Angeles Superior Court Justice Lisa Lench forbade Jackson to do so before the executive took the stand.
Although the alleged discrepancies may seem small, they could prove critical. In his opening remarks, Werksman divided the accusers into pairs. While he accused Siebel Newsom and masseuse Juls Bindi of reframing “transactional” sexual encounters with Weinstein as attacks following the rise of the #MeToo movement, he claimed that Jane Doe 1 and accuser Lauren Young simply fabricated their claims.
The case will continue on Wednesday, with the defense expected to rest in the morning and closing arguments scheduled for the afternoon. The jury could start deliberating as early as Thursday.
Times contributor Noah Goldberg contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-28/harvey-weinstein-will-not-testify-in-l-a-trial-defense-begins-presenting-its-case Harvey Weinstein will not testify in L.A. trial; defense begins presenting its case