Harvey Weinstein is set to face his toughest legal challenge yet – a prison trial for rape and sexual assault that might ship him to jail for the remainder of his life.
Only a handful of ladies shall be allowed to testify on the trial in New York supreme court docket in Manhattan, which begins on 6 January. But watching from the sidelines shall be scores of ladies who’ve alleged sexual misconduct and abuse by the hands of Weinstein.
In the New York trial, the 67-year-old film producer is accused of raping a longtime lover, who has not been publicly named, in 2013, and of forcibly performing oral intercourse on his manufacturing assistant in 2006. The trial will embrace testimony from these two alleged victims, in addition to from Sopranos actor Annabella Sciorra, who stated Weinstein raped her at her condominium in the early 1990s.
The alleged 1993 incident was initially deemed too outdated to be thought-about as proof, however was lately admitted beneath the legal idea that the testimony might assist help fees of predatory sexual assault, which carry a most life sentence and requires prosecutors to present a sample of misconduct.
The prosecution will try to show that Weinstein is responsible of all 5 counts introduced earlier than the court docket, together with two counts of predatory sexual assault, one depend of a prison sexual act in the primary diploma, one depend of rape in the primary diploma and one depend of rape in the third diploma. Sciorra’s allegation can’t be charged individually, in accordance to prosecutors.
Weinstein has denied all wrongdoing, saying any intercourse that befell was consensual.
Zoë Brock, a former mannequin and author from New Zealand who was a part of that civil settlement, informed the Guardian that watching proceedings shall be agonizing.
“I’m heartbroken that I won’t have the opportunity to face him in court myself. I’m really disappointed. It’s been devastating,” stated Brock, who has alleged Weinstein made undesirable sexual advances in a resort room in 1997, forcing her to lock herself in the toilet to escape.
“I can definitely paint a picture that he was aided and abetted by people who worked for him, and some of the people who worked for him admitted to my face that he did it repeatedly.”
The trial comes two years after New York Times and New Yorker investigations into widespread allegations of sexual abuse and harassment by Weinstein helped galvanise the #MeToo period – and a yr after his arrest in 2018, when he was launched on $1m bail.
It additionally comes amid issues that although Weinstein’s fall from Hollywood royalty to prison defendant was a watershed cultural second, he might not finally be held legally accountable for many of his alleged conduct.
Such issues had been heightened in December, following experiences that the Weinstein Company had reached a tentative $25m settlement deal in a civil case with greater than 30 alleged sexual misconduct victims, which might not require Weinstein to admit any wrongdoing or pay something out of his personal pocket to his accusers.
Weinstein’s attorneys insist he’s harmless and can solely want to sow doubt in the jurors’ minds because it’s up to the prosecution to meet the burden of proof, which is greater for prison instances than civil ones.
“Mr Weinstein maintains that all of these allegations are false, and he expects to be fully vindicated,” Weinstein lawyer Benjamin Brafman stated in an announcement.
The highway to the trial has been lengthy and gruelling. In October 2018, Weinstein attorneys obtained one in all six prison intercourse fees dismissed. But the protection subsequently failed to get different fees towards Weinstein dropped in December 2018, after the choose dominated the court docket had discovered “no basis for the defendant’s claim of prosecutorial or law enforcement misconduct”.
Last summer time, prosecutors obtained a brand new indictment permitting for Sciorra to testify – a transfer a Weinstein’s attorneys known as “desperate”. Weinstein’s attorneys confronted one other setback in October when the protection misplaced its bid to transfer the trial to one other metropolis: the court docket rejected the previous producer’s concern that he wouldn’t get a good trial in what his attorneys referred to because the “circus-like atmosphere” of media in New York. Unlike different high-profile court docket instances in the US, this trial won’t be televised.
“I’m trying as much as I can to brace myself for the worst possible scenario,” the actor Katherine Kendall, one of many first ladies to converse out towards Weinstein, informed the Guardian. “And at the same time I feel really hopeful because this is a historic moment and it feels like the message could get out there to people that your stories matter and the judicial system will do something about it.”
Kendall got here ahead as a part of the New York Times’ preliminary investigation into Weinstein, alleging he harassed her in 1993. She has since sought out therapeutic assets, just like the trauma workshops led by fellow Weinstein accuser Louise Godbold.
“If this man walks free it is not just an insult to those of us who have lost friends, families, careers as a result of coming forward with the truth,” Godbold informed the Guardian, “but it is sending a dangerous predator back into the world.”
The former actor and screenwriter Louisette Geiss emphasised her frustration with the restricted scope of the prison trial. “In the class action we know of 150 women he’s affected,” Geiss informed the Guardian.
A mom to 4, Geiss left Hollywood for actual property after she stated Weinstein tried to make her to watch him masturbate in entrance of her as she was pitching a film on the Sundance movie competition in 2008.
She now serves as co-chair of the $25m civil settlement towards Weinstein and the Weinstein Company.
“We all know that the court of public feelings are very important around these decisions and if he’s seen as this poor guy … that’s not going to fly,” she stated, in reference to his current media appearances.
Weinstein has begun showing with a walker, and whereas recovering from spinal surgical procedure, he granted a uncommon picture alternative and interview to the New York Post.
“I feel like the forgotten man,” he informed the Post. “I made more movies directed by women and about women than any film-maker, and I’m talking about 30 years ago. I’m not talking about now when it’s vogue. I did it first! I pioneered it!”
Weinstein has stated he sustained a severe again damage in a automotive accident in August final yr. But some are skeptical of the optics of his interview.
“He’s a wealthy man – he knows how to do PR for himself … So it is very important for us since we can’t be on the stand to make sure we let America know what a bad guy he is,” Geiss stated.
Things will solely extra heated as soon as the trial begins on Monday, a housekeeping day when the choose will define the schedule, and it’s anticipated to drag on for weeks. Jury choice is set to start on Tuesday, and jurors have been informed to put together for a case lasting up to two months.
The Los Angeles district lawyer’s workplace is contemplating whether or not to carry fees in eight separate instances towards Weinstein. London’s Metropolitan police power continues to examine allegations of misconduct. But for now, all eyes are on the New York trial.
“Considering every other horrific thing that happened so far in this criminal case with Harvey, I now live in the worst-case scenario,” Brock stated.
“The system is broken,” Brock continued. “And therefore no, I do not feel confident any more that the right thing will happen because life is not a Spielberg movie. I wish it was.”
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