The #MeToo era began in earnest more than two years ago, in late 2017, when The New York Times and The New Yorker published bombshell stories by women accusing ultra-powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault. In the years since, many other allegations have been levied against similarly powerful men, all as the official legal proceedings against Weinstein advanced, culminating in a trial before the New York State Supreme court, which began today.
It’s the start of what will surely be a landmark trial, so here’s everything you need to know.
What are the charges?
Although more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault or harassment—including Rosanna Arquette, Rose McGowan, Asia Argento, and Angelina Jolie—he’s currently facing five felony charges based on claims from two women: Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant who accused Weinstein of forcibly raping her in his SoHo home in 2006, and an anonymous woman who claims Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel in 2013.
Weinstein, 67, faces a maximum life sentence if found guilty on the biggest charge, felony predatory sexual assault. He’s also looking at charges of criminal sexual act in the first degree, first-degree rape, and third-degree rape. Weinstein denies all the charges, as he’s similarly denied all of the allegations since the stories first broke.
Several of Weinstein's alleged assaults happened too long ago to be eligible for prosecution, including The Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra’s claims that the producer assaulted her in the early ‘90s. The prosecution will, however, be able to call on Sciorra as a witness.
Meanwhile, in addition to the just-commenced New York trial, Weinstein has also just been charged with sexual assault in a separate case in Los Angeles. The possibility of an L.A. trial wasn’t unexpected, even if it's a bit of a shock for the charges to have been made official just hours after the first day of the New York trial concluded. Per reports, the L.A. District Attorney charged Weinstein on four counts: forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force, and sexual battery by restraint.
What's happening with the trial?
The trial will take place in Manhattan’s New York State Supreme court, despite Weinstein’s best efforts to get it moved to a location he believed would be more favorable to him. Judge James Burke will oversee the trial, while Joan Illuzzi-Orbon will lead the prosecution. Donna Rotunno heads up Weinstein’s defense team.
The entire trial is expected to take about eight weeks, starting with two weeks of jury selection. Monday, the first day of the trial, wasn’t especially eventful. Weinstein, who is recovering from back surgery, entered the courtroom using a walker and was hunched over in a not-especially-subtle posture. There were some discussions about the publicity of the trial, with Judge Burke dismissing the prosecution's request to bar the defense from talking about the case outside the courtroom. Burke did not, however, make a ruling on the defense’s request to have the jury sequestered for the duration of the trial.
The prosecution won’t be allowed to call the former lead detective on the case, Det. Nicholas DiGaudio, though other witnesses are allowed to answer questions about him, and there’s a chance he’ll appear if he needs to explicitly confirm or deny statements other witnesses have made about him. DiGaudio was removed from the case in 2018, after he encouraged an accuser to delete cell phone messages. This incident led to a New York judge dropping what would have been a sixth charge against Weinstein in October of 2018.
Although the prosecution told Burke that the defense has neither submitted a single piece of discovery nor provided a witness list, we have a pretty good idea of what strategy Weinstein’s team will adopt in his defense. Their argument will largely attempt to undermine his accusers’ testimony, attempting to frame the incidents as consensual sex acts rather than as rape or assault. Weinstein is not expected to testify.
What happened outside the court today?
On Monday, a large crowd gathered outside of the courtroom, with many onlookers reportedly heckling Weinstein as he shuffled past. Notable, early Weinstein accusers Rosanna Arquette and Rose McGowan were present, labeling themselves “Silence-Breakers.” Famed lawyer Gloria Allred was also present.
"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," Arquette said. "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."
So what’s next?
Jury selection is supposed to be completed by January 14, although in such a high-profile case, picking a jury is always thorny. Once it’s all settled, though, there will be about six weeks of arguments. As the New York trial continues, Weinstein will also likely have to deal with the new Los Angeles case as well, although Judge Burke has indicated that the East Coast trial won't be influenced by events on the West Coast.
Weinstein is perhaps the biggest name of the #MeToo era, and arguably the person whose alleged crimes started a wave of similar accusations against powerful, predatory men, including Bill Cosby, who was found guilty in another prominent trial, and Kevin Spacey, whose trial fell apart this summer.
Originally Appeared on GQ