Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Feb. 7, 2023

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Weinstein trial ends with final jabs at ‘a predator’ and his accusers

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LOS ANGELES — In summing up the case against Harvey Weinstein for jurors this week, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez didn’t hold back.

Projecting images of wolves, bear traps and a barrel-chested Weinstein letting loose a belly laugh, Martinez described the disgraced film titan as a craven hunter who made a sport of preying on women and exerting his influence as one of Hollywood’s most powerful men to keep them silent.

“He used that power to live his life without the repercussions 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 his trap. Confined within those walls, victims were not able to run from his hulking mass. People were not able to hear their scream.”

Weinstein, 70, faces two counts each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, and sexual battery, as well as a count of sexual penetration by a foreign object stemming from allegations made by four women who say he attacked them in upscale Beverly Hills hotels between 2004 and 2013. Prosecutors dropped four other counts in the midst of the proceedings when a fifth accuser refused to testify. Weinstein’s defense attorneys finished their closing arguments late Thursday, and jurors should begin deliberating by Friday afternoon at the latest.

If convicted of all charges, Weinstein faces what would amount to 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 has been an emotional grind, as eight women took the stand to recount brutal attacks they allege Weinstein committed that scarred them and, in some cases, torpedoed their dreams to act or write in Hollywood. On more than one occasion, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench paused the proceedings as accusers broke down while testifying.

Weinstein has denied all wrongdoing. At the start of his closing argument Thursday morning, defense attorney Alan Jackson dismissed the prosecution’s case as “smoke and mirrors” and an attempt to seize on the broader #MeToo movement, which erupted in 2017 when a wave of women came forward to accuse Weinstein and other powerful men of abuse. Prosecutors, Jackson argued, put forth no evidence to corroborate the women’s accounts of the alleged assaults.

“Five words that sum up the entirety of the prosecution’s case: Take my word for it. Take my word for it that he showed up at my hotel room unannounced,” Jackson said. “Take my word for it that I didn’t consent. Take my word for it that I said no.”

Along with the four women whose allegations formed the basis of the charges against Weinstein, four others testified at the trial as “prior bad acts witnesses.” They described similar assaults Weinstein allegedly carried out in New York, Puerto Rico, London and Toronto.

The Times does not identify sexual assault victims unless they have identified themselves publicly. Several of the women who testified against Weinstein in Los Angeles 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 two days of testimony, Siebel Newsom recounted how a purported business meeting with Weinstein at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills devolved into what she described as a grotesque game of “cat and mouse.” Weinstein, she said, emerged from a bathroom in a robe while masturbating. She recalled how he spent 45 minutes trying to coerce her into sex, in part by claiming top-tier actresses had slept with him in exchange for prime roles in films produced by his company, Miramax.

“I’m shaking. I’m crying. He knows this is not consent at all,” she told jurors through tears.

Lauren Young, a former actress who also testified against Weinstein in his New York trial, described a similar bait-and-switch in which a meeting at the Peninsula at 2013 to discuss a screenplay was quickly relocated to a hotel suite, she said.

Juls Bindi, a former masseuse, said after she gave the mogul a massage 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. Once inside the room, she said, Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex and then raped her against a sink.

“I wanted to die. It was disgusting. It was humiliating, miserable. I didn’t fight,” she said. “I remember how he was looking in the mirror and he was telling me to look at him.”

Throughout her closing argument, Martinez highlighted the similarities between the women’s accounts of how Weinstein allegedly got them alone and assaulted them. She accused Weinstein and women who worked for him of following a well-worn playbook to lure victims into compromising situations.

Weinstein’s assistant, Bonnie Hung, once assured a woman identified as Ashley M. that she would be present for a 2003 meeting in a Puerto Rico hotel room, but then closed the door to the room as soon as the dancer stepped inside the room with Weinstein, where she alleged he abused her.

In another incident, Martinez said a woman named Claudia Salinas set up a meeting between Young and Weinstein at a Beverly Hills hotel, then closed a bathroom door behind Young before Weinstein allegedly groped her.

“These are eight women who do not know each other. They’ve never even met,” Martinez said. “Yet they all describe the same conduct by the same man.”

Martinez also criticized Jackson and co-counsel Mark Werksman for assailing the women during the trial. In his opening statement, Werksman referred to Siebel Newsom as a “bimbo.” And after Young testified about how Weinstein stripped naked before allegedly groping her, Jackson removed his own jacket with a quip that he wouldn’t undress “any further, don’t get scared.” The line drew 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 they described Bindi and Siebel Newsom’s encounters with Weinstein as “transactional” sex meant to further their careers.

During his closing argument, Jackson pulled on that thread, questioning why some of the women stayed in touch with their purported rapist. Jackson reminded the jury that Kelly Sipherd, who said she was raped by Weinstein at the Toronto Film Festival in 1991, accepted his invitation to audition for a role in Manhattan for a film 17 years later and again went into a Toronto hotel room alone with Weinstein. Sipherd testified she had wanted to confront Weinstein — an explanation Jackson dismissed as absurd.

“Her story makes absolutely no sense, it’s a farce,” Jackson told jurors.

Jackson continued with the strategy Thursday, zeroing in on what he said were the inconsistencies in the stories and behavior of Weinstein’s accusers. He questioned how Jane Doe 1 could have been raped when records show a fire alarm was going off in the hotel at the time of the alleged attack. And he pointed to emails Siebel Newsom sent Weinstein after the alleged rape about upcoming film projects and political donations for her husband.

Jackson dismissed Siebel Newsom’s emotional testimony as an “act” and told the jury to focus on facts over feelings.

“I don’t know how to say it more gentle than this, but fury does not make fact,” he said. “Tears do not make truth.”

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