In summarizing the case against Harvey Weinstein for the jury this week, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. atty Marlene Martinez did not hold back.
Projecting images of wolves, bear traps and a broad-chested Weinstein who burst out laughing, Martinez described the disgraced film titan as a cowardly hunter dedicated to preying on women and his influence as one of the most powerful men Hollywood’s exercise to keep them silent.
“He used this power to live his life without the effects of his predatory behavior. There is no question that Harvey Weinstein was a predator,” Martinez said Wednesday at the end of a month-long trial. “For this predator, hotels were its trap. Confined within these walls, victims could not flee from its vast mass. People couldn’t hear her scream.”
Weinstein, 70, faces two counts each of violent rape, violent oral copulation and sexual assault, and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, stemming from allegations by four women who say he has them in upscale hotels assaulted in Beverly Hills between 2004 and 2013. Prosecutors dropped four more charges mid-trial when a fifth accuser declined to testify. Weinstein’s defense attorneys finished their closing arguments late Thursday, and the jury was due to begin deliberating no later than Friday afternoon.
If convicted on all charges, Weinstein faces a life sentence in a California prison. He is currently serving a 23-year sentence in New York, where he was found guilty in 2020 of raping other women.
The trial was one of emotional attrition as eight women took the stand to recount brutal assaults they claim committed Weinstein that scarred them and, in some cases, torpedoed their dreams of acting or becoming Hollywood write. On more than one occasion, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench interrupted proceedings when prosecutors broke down during their testimony.
Weinstein has denied any wrongdoing. Beginning his closing argument Thursday morning, defense attorney Alan Jackson dismissed the prosecution’s case as “smoke and mirrors” and an attempt to address the broader #MeToo movement that erupted in 2017 when a wave of women came forward to frame Weinstein and other powerful men of abuse. Prosecutors, Jackson argued, presented no evidence to support the women’s accounts of the alleged assaults.
“Five words that sum up the entire prosecution case: Take my word for it. Take my word for showing up unannounced in my hotel room,” Jackson said. “Believe me I didn’t agree. Take my word for saying no.”
Along with the four women whose allegations formed the basis of the charges against Weinstein, four others testified at the trial as “witnesses to previous bad deeds.” They described similar attacks Weinstein allegedly carried out in New York, Puerto Rico, London and Toronto.
The Times does not identify victims of sexual assault unless they have publicly identified themselves. Several of the women who testified against Weinstein in Los Angeles had previously disclosed their abuse.
Among them is Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who said she first met Weinstein when she was a struggling actress in the mid-2000s, before her marriage to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
During the two-day testimony, Siebel told Newsom how an alleged business meeting with Weinstein at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills turned into what she called a grotesque “cat-and-mouse game.” Weinstein, she said, emerged from a bathroom in a bathrobe while masturbating. She recalled him trying to force her to have sex for 45 minutes, in part by claiming that high-profile actresses had slept with him in exchange for starring roles in films produced by his company, Miramax.
“I’m shaking. I’m crying. He knows that’s not consent at all,” she tearfully told the jury.
Lauren Young, a former actress who also testified against Weinstein in his New York trial, described a similar lure and switch in which a 2013 meeting on the Peninsula to discuss a screenplay was quickly moved to a hotel suite, said you.
Juls Bindi, a former masseuse, said after massaging the mogul in a hotel room in 2010, Weinstein followed her into the bathroom, groped her and masturbated.
“Now I know I can trust you, we’re close friends,” Weinstein said after the attack, according to Bindi.
And an Italian model, identified in court as Jane Doe 1, testified that Weinstein showed up at her Beverly Hills hotel room after midnight one night in February 2013. Entering the room, she said Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex and then raped her in a sink.
“I wanted to die. It was disgusting. It was humiliating, miserable. I didn’t fight,” she said. “I remember him looking in the mirror and telling me to look at him.”
During her closing argument, Martinez highlighted the similarities between the women’s accounts of how Weinstein allegedly caught them alone and attacked them. She accused Weinstein and the women who worked for him of following a well-worn playbook for luring victims into compromising situations.
Weinstein’s assistant Bonnie Hung once assured a woman identified as Ashley M. that she would be present at a meeting in a Puerto Rico hotel room in 2003, but then closed the door to the room as soon as the dancer entered the room with Weinstein, where she claimed , he abused her.
In another incident, Martinez said a woman named Claudia Salinas arranged for Young and Weinstein to meet at a Beverly Hills hotel and then closed a bathroom door on Young before Weinstein allegedly groped her.
“These are eight women who don’t know each other. They’ve never met,” Martinez said. “Yet they all describe the same behavior of the same man.”
Martinez also criticized Jackson and co-counsel Mark Werksman for assaulting the women during the trial. In his opening remarks, Werksman referred to Siebel Newsom as “Bimbo.” And after Young testified how Weinstein stripped naked before allegedly groping her, Jackson removed his own jacket with a quip that he wouldn’t undress further, “don’t worry.” The line elicited groans and gasps from onlookers in the courtroom.
Jackson and Werksman have repeatedly claimed the assaults on Jane Doe 1 and Young never happened, while describing Bindi and Siebel Newsom’s encounters with Weinstein as “transactional” sex intended to further their careers.
During his closing argument, Jackson continued this thread and questioned why some of the women stayed in touch with their alleged rapist. Jackson reminded the jury that Kelly Sipherd, who said she was raped by Weinstein at the 1991 Toronto Film Festival, accepted his invitation to audition for a role in Manhattan for a film 17 years later and again alone with Weinstein in a hotel room went to Toronto. Sipherd testified that she wanted to confront Weinstein, a statement Jackson dismissed as absurd.
“Your story makes absolutely no sense, it’s a farce,” Jackson told the jury.
Jackson continued the strategy Thursday, focusing on the inconsistencies in the stories and behavior of Weinstein’s accusers. He asked how Jane Doe 1 could have been raped when records show a fire alarm went off at the hotel at the time of the alleged attack. And he pointed to emails Siebel sent Newsom Weinstein after the alleged rape about upcoming film projects and political donations to her husband.
Jackson dismissed Siebel Newsom’s emotional testimony as “act” and urged the jury to focus on facts rather than feelings.
“I don’t know how to put it softer, but anger doesn’t make facts,” he said. “Tears don’t make truth.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-02/jurors-begin-delberating-at-harvey-weinstein-trial Weinstein trial ends with final jabs at ‘predator,’ accusers