TW: This article includes mentions and descriptions of sexual assault.
Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault criminal trial started this week Oct. 10, with jury selection beginning on Monday.
This week’s trial will take place in Los Angeles, California, and is the product of nearly five years of allegations, and almost two decades since the first addressed incident. In late 2017, both the New York Times and the New Yorker published the first stories exposing Weinstein’s actions of assault and harassment, with at least one of which occurring over 18 years ago. New York court documents filed in late May of 2020 allege that Weinstein’s sexual offenses span from 1984-2013.
The accusations come predominantly from women in Hollywood pursuing acting careers. The BBC reports that the allegations claim Weinstein forced women to massage him and perform sexual favors in return for his promise to advance their careers. These allegations from women span from all over the United States and even internationally. In October 2017, British actress Lysette Anthony addresses that Weinstein raped her in the late 1980s at her London home. Additionally, actress Natassia Malthe accused Weinstein of raping her after the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards in 2008, in her London hotel. And in June 2022, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged Weinstein with two counts of indecent assault in London in the summer of 1996.
Weinstein and his legal team have “unequivocally denied” every allegation covering nearly three decades. Following public claims from actress Salma Hayak that Weinstein sexually harassed and threatened her, a spokeswoman for Weinstein’s team claims that “all of the sexual allegations as portrayed by Salma are not accurate.” In July of 2018, Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman made a claim saying, “Mr. Weinstein is not a predator; he is not a rapist.” Ultimately, after years of public denial of these allegations, a collective statement from the 23 female accusers, highlighted by The Guardian, claims that “Harvey Weinstein is trying to gaslight society again.”
The National Public Radio (NPR) reports that 70-year-old Weinstein is already behind bars serving a 23-year sentence as a result of his 2020 conviction in New York. In this trial, Weinstein was found guilty on multiple charges of rape in the third degree and various other criminal sexual acts. With the New York trial just getting underway, Weinstein was also charged with sexual assault in Los Angeles. In July of 2021, Weinstein was indicted on four counts of forcible oral copulation, two counts of sexual battery by restraint, forcible rape and one count of sexual penetration by use of force.
The Los Angeles trial, expected to last eight weeks, will take place at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center of downtown LA and will differ from the New York trial in multiple facets. Firstly, while the New York trial had Weinstein greeted by the media and many citizens, the trial in Los Angeles will be more private and general court attendance will be smaller. With Weinstein remaining behind bars at his time, he will be brought only back and forth between jail and the courtroom. Secondly, while dozens of reporters and sketch artists were allowed inside the courtroom in New York, only two sketch artists and 24 reporters will be permitted to view the trial from within the courtroom each day. Additionally, the accusers will present in court under the name Jane Doe numbers 1-5 so their identity remains protected.
Among the first women to come forth initially in 2017, Rose McGowan’s testimony will be excluded from this particular trial per the request of Judge Lisa B. Lench. McGowan, a Hollywood movie and TV actress and activist, originally accused Weinstein of forcible rape in 1997. However, he denied her claims, and a $100,000 settlement was reached. McGowan, along with the other women to come out, including popular actress Ashley Judd, inspired many other women to publicly address their attackers and rapists. Forming a movement of women who no longer felt that they had to hide, called the #MeToo movement. This movement outed many previously powerful men predominantly in Hollywood but included other facets of society as well.
Despite the fact that the New York conviction already placed Weinstein in jail, the Los Angeles verdict will still be significant. Weinstein and his team are currently in the process of appealing the New York decision and if the Los Angeles trial finds him guilty, decades could be added to his prison time.