‘She Said’ and a New York Appeal Loom Large Over Harvey Weinstein’s Sex Crimes Trial in L.A.

Harvey Weinstein will face a second rape and sexual assault trial in Los Angeles this week, days after the premiere of a movie about the New York Times exposé that uncovered his long history of sexual harassment.The disgraced movie mogul is already serving a 23-year sentence after he was convicted of rape and sexual assault

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Harvey Weinstein will face a second rape and sexual assault trial in Los Angeles this week, days after the premiere of a movie about the New York Times exposé that uncovered his long history of sexual harassment.

The disgraced movie mogul is already serving a 23-year sentence after he was convicted of rape and sexual assault in New York in February 2020. That case centered on two women: Miriam Haley, a production assistant who said Weinstein sexually assaulted her in his New York City apartment in 2006, and Jessica Mann, a former actress who said he raped her in a New York hotel room in 2013.

In total, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or rape. In its reporting, the New York Times revealed that he had settled with at least eight of them.

The new case, which will be tried in Los Angeles Superior Court, stems from allegations made by five additional women, who remain anonymous in court documents.

A grand jury first returned an indictment against Weinstein on March 15, 2021, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. That June, a New York judge approved Weinstein’s extradition to Los Angeles so he could face the additional charges. He was moved from the Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown L.A. in July 2021.

The case will be tried through November against a backdrop of interrelated issues that could influence the proceedings: the release of the film She Said, starring Carey Mulligan and executive produced by Brad Pitt; Weinstein’s deteriorating health; and an ongoing appeal in the aforementioned New York case.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all charges, while his attorney Mark Werksman continues to deny them.

“We’re going to have a robust trial where a lot of these issues are going to be presented in a lot of detail,” Werksman tells The Daily Beast. “We’re confident once the jury hears the details of these allegations, they’ll see that they didn’t happen or that they’re fabricated, or that they didn’t happen the way they say they did.”

Photo by Etienne Laurent/AFP via Getty Images

The L.A. District Attorney’s Office did not respond to questions from The Daily Beast.

What are the new charges?

Weinstein, 70, is facing 11 counts of sexual assault in Los Angeles County, which together carry a maximum sentence of 140 years in prison.

The indictments include four counts of forcible oral copulation, four counts of forcible rape, two counts of sexual battery by restraint, and one count of penetration by foreign object. The charges revolve around five different women who Weinstein allegedly abused at different times over a period of nearly a decade, between 2004 and 2013.

Judge Lisa B. Lench of the L.A. Superior Court is overseeing the trial.

The eight-page indictment document includes few details about the individual allegations except the time at which they happened and the nature of the alleged crimes.

Count four, for example, says Weinstein “willfully and unlawfully [touched] an intimate part of Jane Doe #2, while said person was unlawfully restrained by said defendant, Harvey Weinstein, against the will of said person and for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification or sexual abuse.”

The district attorney’s office went into more detail in a press release after the indictment was released.

“The defendant is charged with raping a woman at a hotel between September 2004 and September 2005. He also is accused of raping another woman on two separate occasions in November 2009 and November 2010 at a hotel in Beverly Hills,” the office said. “Weinstein also is charged with sexually assaulting another woman at a Beverly Hills hotel in May 2010 and charged with sexually assaulting two women during separate incidents in 2013.”

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that one of the accusers who will take the stand to testify against Weinstein is Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Siebel Newsom’s attorney, Elizabeth Fegan, confirmed the Times’s report, telling The Daily Beast in a statement, “Like many other women, my client was sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein at a purported business meeting that turned out to be a trap. 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. Please respect her choice to not discuss this matter outside of the courtroom.

What to expect from the new trial

The trial got underway on Monday with jury selection, which is expected to last about two weeks.

“It’s going to be a Herculean task to find jurors who have not prejudged the case, who have not been tainted by the pretrial publicity and the news, who don’t pay lip service to the presumption of innocence,” says Randy Zelin, a criminal defense attorney and professor at Cornell Law School. “Can anyone say with a straight face in jury selection, ‘I look at him now and he’s innocent?’”

Witness testimony is expected to begin around Oct. 24, with the entire trial likely to last about six to eight weeks, possibly stretching into early December.

It’s going to be a Herculean task to find jurors who have not prejudged the case, who have not been tainted by the pretrial publicity and the news, who don’t pay lip service to the presumption of innocence.

Randy Zelin, criminal defense attorney and Cornell Law School professor

The D.A.’s office is still deciding whether to include facts about Haley, one of the accusers who helped secure Weinstein’s conviction in New York, as part of their evidence in the Los Angeles trial, Werksman says.

While Haley’s abuse took place in New York, California prosecutors are allowed to introduce additional evidence of other sexual offenses to establish evidence of a pattern, even if they’re outside of the court’s jurisdiction. The New York Court of Appeals threw a wrench into that plan in August, however, when it granted Weinstein an appeal that is expected to begin next year, according to NBC News. If Haley’s testimony is used in the L.A. trial, but later gets overturned in New York, it could potentially taint the integrity of any possible conviction in L.A.

“If I were the prosecutor, I’d be concerned about how much other ‘bad act’ evidence I’m putting in over and above the charges in light of what the New York Court of Appeals might do. It’s a reversal in waiting,” Zelin says.

Meanwhile, presenting a possible issue for the defense is the movie She Said, starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as NYT journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, which premieres this week at the New York Film Festival and is slated for nationwide release on Nov. 18. Kantor and Twohey’s watershed 2017 article uncovered Weinstein’s long pattern of predatory behavior and paying off sexual harassment abusers, and prompted a reckoning in Hollywood as the #MeToo movement brought justice, whether legal or reputational, to several high-profile sexual harassers in the following years. Among them was actor Kevin Spacey, who is currently battling allegations of battery and emotional distress in a civil case brought against him by Rent actor Anthony Rapp.

Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures

Werksman previously asked Lench to delay the trial, arguing that the film’s release and publicity would “dramatically prejudice the ability to get a fair trial,” according to Variety. Lench rejected that motion, saying, “I’m not continuing the trial. We’ll just have to deal with it.”

Weinstein’s team is aware that public opinion is stacked against the producer, whose biggest titles include The English Patient, Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, and Gangs of New York.

“Unfortunately, a political and social movement ignited public opinion, making it nearly impossible for Mr. Weinstein’s narrative to be heard,” Juda Engelmayer, a spokesperson for Weinstein, says. “The trial in Los Angeles is more of the same and we can only hope that Harvey will have the chance to be heard and to get the narrative and facts out that he knows to be true.”

On top of that, there’s the issue of Weinstein’s deteriorating health. The former head of Miramax routinely shows up to court in a wheelchair and is said to be losing sight in one eye.

Weinstein directly addressed the court during a hearing last month, in which he asked to go see a dentist after claiming to be unsatisfied with the dental care options available in prison.

“I’m in pain every day. I have cavities and I can’t eat because I’m missing teeth,” he said, according to multiple outlets. The judge ordered Werksman to make a written request for a dentist visit.

In all, Zelin believes Weistein’s legal team is holding out hope that an appellate court will find errors in the L.A. trial.

“I believe the defense will be playing for an appellate record, meaning Weinstein won’t testify and the defense will look to create a record of errors for appellate review,” he says. “The prosecutor will play not to lose. The case does not have the gravitas the New York trial had.”

— Pilar Melendez contributed reporting

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