Harvey Weinstein's rape and sexual assault trial began Monday in New York City where the disgraced producer faces a possibility of life in prison. There was no shortage of drama both outside and inside the courtroom — and in Los Angeles. It was also announced Monday he will face sexual assault and rape charges stemming from encounters with two women in 2013.
Weinstein, who was once one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, hobbled into a Manhattan court on a walker passing by a group of accusers — including actresses Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette — who call themselves the "Silence Breakers." They said in a release they were "representing the more than 90 women who bravely came forward to report Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct."
"He doesn’t realize what he’s done at all and I don’t think he ever will," McGowan told the crowd on Monday. "He has something sick in his head like many serial rapists."
Here's what happened today and what you can expect from the explosive trial.
Judge deals blow to the defense on Monday
Justice James Burke, who became a state criminal court judge in 2001 after working for years as a prosecutor in New York, made some significant rulings on day 1. In what's considered a setback for Weinstein's defense team, he declared they cannot call detective Nicholas DiGaudio as a witness. According to the New York Times, Weinstein's attorneys intended to cast doubt on the New York Police Department investigation of their client as the disgraced detective withheld evidence favorable to the defense from prosecutors. However, the judge said other witnesses could be asked about the detective’s work on cross-examination. The judge also denied the defense's request to keep the jury sequestered for the eight-week trial.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzi-Orbon made a plea to bar Weinstein, 67, and his defense team from talking to the media, but Justice Burke said he wouldn't prohibit either side from speaking to the press. However, he issued a stern warning after prosecutors accused Weinstein's lead lawyer, Donna Rotunno, of smearing a witness in an interview with CNN.
"I don’t think I did anything improper," said Rotunno, per Variety. "I spoke to a few outlets on Mr. Weinstein’s behalf. It’s abominable for [Illuzzi] to say I’m doing anything other representing my client. I would not do anything that was not professional."
"It’s going to be hard enough to get a fair jury," Justice Burke noted. "None of this helps us attain this goal."
Jury selection begins Tuesday
The lawyers will pick 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of 500 New Yorkers, which will be done in open court. "In sum, everyone will have their jury selection in open-air right here on the record," the judge said. "That’s what the attorneys were recommending and suggesting to me."
But is that easier said than done? San Diego Criminal Attorney David P. Shapiro weighed in on the jury selection process and the judge’s ruling not to have them sequestered to Yahoo Entertainment.
"The key for the defense will be selecting jurors who will hold the prosecution to its high burden, no matter how many accusers testify. The defense wants a juror who will be able to assess each accuser, and their corresponding charges, individually and not be swayed by emotion or the testimony of the other accusers," he explained Monday.
"No juror wants to be sequestered, especially for weeks at a time," he continued. "It is next to impossible for a non-sequestered juror not to come across some coverage of Weinstein’s trial, due to his celebrity and the international attention the trial has received."
The criminal charges against Weinstein hinge on the allegations of two women
Weinstein has been accused of raping a woman, whose identity has been sealed in court documents, in March 2013. He's also accused of forcing a second woman, former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, to allow him to perform oral sex on her at his apartment in Manhattan in 2006. He has been charged with one count of rape and one count of criminal sexual act and if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. He also faces a charge of predatory sexual assault for committing a serious sex crime against more than one person and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. In total, Weinstein is charged with first-degree rape, two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of first-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree rape. He has pleaded not guilty to all five charges.
Six women are expected to testify about alleged inappropriate encounters with Weinstein
Along with the above two women, prosecutors will call four additional accusers to the stand including Annabella Sciorra. The Sopranos actress claimed Weinstein sexually assaulted her in her New York City apartment in 1993. (He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.) The three other women have yet to be identified. According to the New York Times, prosecutors hope those witnesses will show the jury that Weinstein has a long history of being a sexual predator, therefore supporting the claims of the two main accusers. It's a strategy similar to what prosecutors used in Bill Cosby's high-profile sexual assault trial and Weinstein’s defense team will have to carefully navigate how to handle these witnesses.
"'Where there is smoke there is fire' is a compelling prosecution theory, although they’ll likely be prohibited from making their argument before the jury in that fashion," David P. Shapiro tells Yahoo. "A key for the defense will be to provide a motive why so many, if not all, of these women, would falsely accuse their client of these sexual assaults. Without a strong motive to lie, exaggerate, and/or fabricate the accusations, Weinstein’s defense team will need to get creative in presenting a plausible defense theory due to the sheer number of accusers."
Rose McGowan, Patricia Arquette and the "Silence Breakers" are not among the women that will take the stand
Arquette, McGowan, Lauren Sivan, Louise Godbold and other Weinstein accusers held a press conference outside the courthouse on Monday.
"As one of the Silence Breakers, I stand in solidarity with the brave survivors who will take the stand against Harvey Weinstein in this trial. While the emotion of the day runs high, I join these other brave women who were also harmed by Harvey Weinstein to say: We aren't going anywhere," Arquette told the crowd on Monday. The actress claimed Weinstein pulled her hand towards his crotch in the early '90s.
"As we stand here at the beginning of a new year and a new decade: Time's Up. Time's Up on sexual harassment in all workplaces. Time's Up on blaming survivors. Time's Up on empty apologies without consequences. And Time's Up on the pervasive culture of silence that has enabled abusers like Weinstein," she continued. "These abusers that make it unsafe for women to go to work every morning, to take a business meeting or event, to report a crime without retaliation. We're here to ensure that the focus of this criminal case is on the perpetrators' actions, not his victims. And that justice is served. The truth will prevail. And whether it is this trial or in the future, Harvey will be held accountable for his actions."
McGowan, who accused Weinstein of raping her at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997, also delivered a powerful speech.
"Dear Harvey," McGowan began, "no matter what lies you tell yourself, you did this. Today, Lady Justice is staring down a super predator: You."
She continued, "You brought this upon yourself by hurting so many. You have only yourself to blame. I came here today to see this through. I came here today to stand side by side with these other women who you also harmed and to be a voice for the voiceless, like I was for so long. You thought you could terrorize me and others into silence. You were wrong. We rose from your ashes. We rise together.
"That we've come to this moment of justice is staggering. The trial means so much to so many, but it will mean the most to the brave women testifying and to all of us Silence Breakers. I thank those testifying for standing, not just for themselves, but for all of us who will never have even one day in court. Today is a day for us to honor how far we've come and how much we've endured to get here. But it is not the end. Know this: we are free, we are beautiful, we are strong, and you will never take that from us. Most importantly, know that the Silence Breakers will never give up. Survivors will never give up."
More charges loom against Weinstein in Los Angeles
While it won’t directly impact his trial in New York City, new charges have been filed against Weinstein in Los Angeles, Yahoo Entertainment can confirm. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced Monday Weinstein was charged with one felony count each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint. If convicted, he faces up to 28 years in state prison.
"We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement Monday. "I want to commend the victims who have come forward and bravely recounted what happened to them. It is my hope that all victims of sexual violence find strength and healing as they move forward."
Weinstein is accused of raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013. On Feb. 18, 2013, Weinstein allegedly went to a hotel and raped a woman after pushing his way inside her room. The next evening, he is accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a hotel suite in Beverly Hills.
Yahoo Entertainment reached out to a representative for Weinstein but did not immediately receive a response.
McGowan reacted to the news on Twitter, writing, "Welcome to the rest of your life, hope you’ll have as much fun as we have had being in your jail."
L.A. INDICTMENT! Cant breathe. Happy trial day to you, Mr. Weinstein. Welcome to the rest of your life, hope you’ll have as much fun as we have had being in your jail. https://t.co/l8tcZlh5zq via @NYTimes— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) January 6, 2020
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