Weinstein sex assault trial opens in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES: Jury selection began Monday in the Los Angeles trial of disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, with five alleged victims expected to take the stand during the two-month case.
The 70-year-old "Pulp Fiction" producer is already serving 23 years in jail in New York after being convicted there of a series of sex crimes.
He now faces 11 more charges, including sexual battery by restraint, forcible rape and forcible oral copulation against women in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles hotels between 2004 and 2013.
If convicted, Weinstein -- who has pleaded not guilty to all counts -- could be sentenced to more than 100 additional years behind bars.
Weinstein, who uses a wheelchair, wore a dark blue suit with a light blue tie when he appeared in court.
The potentially lengthy task of selecting a jury got underway Monday with Judge Lisa Lench overseeing proceedings.
Widespread sexual abuse and harassment allegations against Weinstein exploded in October 2017, and his conviction in New York in 2020 was a landmark in the #MeToo movement.
In June, he lost a bid to have that sex crimes conviction overturned. He has also been separately charged by British prosecutors with the 1996 indecent assault of a woman in London.
In total, nearly 90 women, including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek, have accused Weinstein of harassment or assault.
- Power players -
The Los Angeles Times on Monday quoted Weinstein attorney Mark Werksman as saying there would be testimony from well-known figures.
"Some of these victims, people will recognize them. Some of these women, you’ve seen them in movies, they’ve been in ad campaigns, a couple of them have achieved some success as actresses or models," Werksman said, according to the paper.
The Times said one of the five accusers -- all of whom will be known formally as "Jane Doe" -- would be Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.
"Like many other women, my client was sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein at a purported business meeting that turned out to be a trap," her lawyer Elizabeth Fegan told the paper.
"She intends to testify at his trial in order to seek some measure of justice for survivors, and as part of her life’s work to improve the lives of women."
Siebel Newsom has previously written about Weinstein's behavior in an essay published in 2017, but did not give details about the alleged assaults.
Weinstein says that all his sexual encounters were consensual, and his lawyer told reporters that the Los Angeles accusations "stem from many years ago" and cannot "be substantiated or corroborated by any forensic evidence" or "credible witnesses."
The New York Film Festival this week will premiere "She Said," a film about the 2017 newspaper investigation into Weinstein that sparked the demise of his movie empire.
Before the allegations against him emerged, the producer and his brother Bob were Hollywood's ultimate power players.
They co-founded Miramax Films, a distribution company named after their mother Miriam and father Max, in 1979. It was sold to Disney in 1993.
Their hits included 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," for which Weinstein shared a best picture Oscar. Over the years, Weinstein's films received more than 300 Oscar nominations and 81 statuettes.