Harvey Weinstein is due to be sentenced on Thursday, three months after being convicted of rape and sexual assault in Los Angeles, if his motion for a new trial is denied.
The disgraced film producer faces up to 18 additional years in prison, but his attorneys argue that Weinstein deserves a new trial because the jury should have seen evidence suggesting that the actress he was convicted of raping was having an affair with another man.
Weinstein was previously convicted of rape and sexual assault in New York in 2020 and is currently serving a 23-year-prison term.
The jury in the Los Angeles case convicted Weinstein on three counts of rape and sexual assault against a single victim, a European model and actor who testified anonymously as “Jane Doe #1.” Jurors acquitted Weinstein of assaulting another woman, a massage therapist, and failed to reach a verdict on whether he raped or assaulted two other women, including Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an actor and film producer who is now married to Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California.
Legal observers said Weinstein’s Los Angeles trial, which came more than two years after his conviction in New York, was marked by a striking degree of misogyny that included Weinstein’s defense team attacking his accusers’ credibility and their sexual behavior, and labeling Siebel Newsom as “just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood”.
His attorneys also used the trial as a referendum on the #MeToo movement, with defense attorney Alan Jackson telling jurors: “The truth is immutable. It’s not a feeling. It’s not a whim. It’s not a hashtag.”
Weinstein’s second criminal trial centered on the allegations of four women who accused the producer of raping or sexually assaulting them in California, but also included supporting testimony from women who said he raped or assaulted them in similar ways in Toronto, London, and Puerto Rico.
Over more than nine days of deliberation, the majority of jurors wanted to convict Weinstein on charges of sexual assault against two other women, including Siebel Newsom, but could not convince a minority of jurors, who remained skeptical of the allegations, the Associated Press reported.
In interviews with jurors, the Associated Press found that the European actor and model’s composure on the stand and her behavior after the assault convinced the jury, which included at least one “very old school” man, that her account of Weinstein’s rape was credible beyond a reasonable doubt.
Jane Doe #1 only one accuser who had no further direct dealings with Weinstein or his representatives after the incident. She testified she had barely known who he was, having been introduced only briefly at the film festival, and wanted nothing from him. Others, including Siebel Newsom, had friendly email exchanges with Weinstein or sought out future meetings after their incidents, a point the defense emphasized in their cross-examinations and closing arguments.
That resonated with some jurors. One male juror said he voted to convict on the Jane Doe #1 counts, but reluctantly voted to acquit on the counts involving Siebel Newsom. The difference, he said, was the women’s “subsequent action”.
“In a two-and-a-half-year period she had sent Mr Weinstein over 35 emails,” he said of Siebel Newsom. “She wanted access to Harvey Weinstein. It sounded like she wanted access to a lot of his resources. It raised a reasonable doubt in my mind.”
Another male juror said the intensely emotional testimony of Siebel Newsom, might have been too much for some fellow jurors.
“Throughout the trial, Weinstein’s lawyers used sexism, misogyny, and bullying tactics to intimidate, demean, and ridicule us survivors,” Siebel Newsom said in a statement after the verdict. “This trial was a stark reminder that we as a society have work to do.”
Weinstein has been publicly accused of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment by more than 90 women in incidents stretching back decades. In 2018, dozens of women, including some of Hollywood’s most prominent actresses, began to speak publicly about his behavior towards them, a series of disclosures that that galvanized the #MeToo movement and raised questions about how the film and media industries shielded powerful men from facing consequences for sexual misconduct.
Weinstein pleaded not guilty to all charges in both of his criminal trials, and has denied ever engaging in non-consensual sex.
A previous sentencing hearing for Weinstein in January was pushed back until 23 February to allow his attorneys to file a motion for a new trial. In the motion, Weinstein’s attorneys argued that the jury should have seen Facebook messages between Jane Doe #1 and another man who testified in the trial, which they suggested would have undermined the jury’s perception of her her credibility on the stand. His lawyers also argued that one of the instructions the jury received, related to defendants who threaten witnesses from testifying, also unfairly prejudiced jurors against Weinstein.
An appeal of Weinstein’s New York conviction is also due for a hearing later this year.
The Associated Press contributed reporting
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