Masterson, Weinstein cases collide in L.A. County courthouse

Last month, as dozens of people crowded and shoved toward a crowded security checkpoint on the 9th floor of Los Angeles County’s largest criminal courthouse, actor, Scientologist and accused rapist Danny Masterson blundered into multiple jurors.

But no jury in his high-profile trial — the other is down the hall.

Whether it’s OJ Simpson, infamous LA serial killers like Night Stalker or Grim Sleeper, or the doctor convicted of fatally overdosing Michael Jackson, the 9 most notorious — and sometimes famous — in the county are brought to justice.

Notorious among prosecutors, defense attorneys and court observers, you can always expect something noir and remarkable to happen on the 9th floor. But these are particularly busy days.

In a courtroom at the end of the room, Harvey Weinstein will be charged with raping multiple women in a trial that will include testimony from actor Mel Gibson and California governor’s wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

On the other hand, Masterson is trying to deflect allegations that he raped three Scientologists in the early 2000s. The case has raised questions about the church’s efforts to bury reports of abuse against its own members.

While these two cases make most of the headlines, a triple homicide is also being pursued across from the courtroom where Weinstein is being tried. And up until last week, Keya Morgan, the former CEO of comics icon Stan Lee, was accused of robbing the Spider-Man co-creator before his death in 2018. Morgan was eventually acquitted.

The crowded list has drawn a cross section of personalities unique in Los Angeles to the main hallway on the 9th floor. It’s been the target of suspected Scientology agents, a woman dying to introduce herself to Weinstein, and a popular TikTok creator who took a break from her typical fare of cryptids and the apocalypse to shoot videos depicting the process of becoming in Document the disgraced Hollywood kingmaker.

Also, Steve Cooley, the former prosecutor, was seen walking past the Weinstein courtroom one morning on his way to serve as a defense attorney in a public corruption case.

A sense of intrigue reigns in the Masterson courtroom.

Men and women in suits are suspected of being Scientology attorneys as the church resents their faith being placed at the center of the rape trial. A man many believe represents the Church has attended court every day since mid-October, with his back tattoos visible through a white button-down shirt.

He told the Times he was a lawyer, then walked away, refusing to say if he worked for Scientology. The man was making handwritten notes in the courtroom and scrawled the word “CHILDISH” as a Masterson prosecutor said she felt dizzy and had an apparent panic attack on the witness stand last month.

A Scientology spokeswoman said no church lawyers attended the Masterson trial, calling the suggestion “insulting.”

A prominent ex-Scientologist, Mark Headley, attended the trial for a day as he toured Los Angeles. Headley worked for the church’s production company in the 1990s and says he met Masterson in 1994 on the set of a short film Scientology was making.

“As Danny walked down the hall, he gave me a dirty look,” Headley said of the ninth-floor greeting.

The crowd of spectators who gathered to watch the trials, along with the jury, attorneys and witnesses in the other cases unfolding, created a miniature mosh pit as people try to get into the 9th floor elevators – and get out. On the day of the opening arguments at Weinstein’s trial, the floor’s security checkpoint was secured in such a way that people attempting to exit the elevator were forced to proceed to different floors until enough space became available for them to fit in the hallway .

LA County Superior Court communications director Ann Donlan said the traffic jam was not a “common occurrence” and blamed the narrowness for multiple courtrooms on the floor conducting jury selection that day. While the court’s presiding judge is alerted when high-profile trials like Masterson and Weinstein’s are scheduled concurrently, decisions on when to begin the trial are based solely on the rights of the defendants and the availability of the trial, Donlan said.

At the Weinstein trial, reporters whisper to both Weinstein’s defense team and prosecutors, asking when Gibson, Siebel Newsom, or other A-list witnesses could comment.

For two days, a woman with short blonde hair, long acrylic nails and untied shoelaces scurried through the courtroom. She nervously shifted along a bench during the testimony and at one point pulled out a second surgical mask to cover the one she was already wearing.

Eventually she approached Weinstein and tried to speak to him. She was quickly pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy — talking to incarcerated defendants is illegal under California law — and hasn’t returned to court since. A Times reporter was unable to speak to her before she exited the building.

Jennifer Carmody, a 34-year-old TikToker with half a million followers who goes by the online moniker “jk ultra,” has also been a regular presence in court among the conditional doodles. But unlike the more traditional press in the room, Carmody describes herself as a “before-it-was-cool conspiracy theorist,” who has garnered a large online following through a series of videos exploring UFOs and apocalyptic prophecies.

Despite her unorthodox material, Carmody says she directly plays the Weinstein trial. She believes that many of her followers only get their messages from TikTok and that she owes them an unfiltered look at what’s going on.

“A lot of my listeners don’t watch the mainstream media, and since this is such an important case, I wanted to cover it through a neutral lens,” she said.

Cameras have been banned in both courtrooms and judges have limited the number of reporters allowed. Unlike in New York, where every day a crowd of media parked outside the Weinstein courtroom to bark questions at the mogul and his team, taping is banned inside LA circuit courts. Overall media exposure at Weinstein’s Los Angeles trial paled in comparison to his New York City Attorney’s office — where reporters lined up at 4 a.m. some days to gain access — but that could change as more prominent witnesses emerge.

Although Weinstein was previously convicted of rape in a previous trial in New York and a massive civil lawsuit was settled by many of his accusers, Carmody said she believes there is a chance he will be acquitted in Los Angeles.

“Too many times have we seen powerful people leave,” she said. “If that happened to Harvey, then I’ll have to see for myself why.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-09/celebrity-trials-collide-in-l-a-countys-biggest-courthouse Masterson, Weinstein cases collide in L.A. County courthouse

Alley Einstein

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