Five years after the #MeToo surge that brought it down, we are far from the media effervescence. For the opening of the proceedings of Harvey Weinstein’s second trial on Monday, only half a dozen cameras were waiting for him outside the courthouse entrance in Los Angeles. But the fallen producer arrived by an underground entrance, far from the flashes, and his lawyer Mark Werksman did not say a word while passing in front of the press.
During the opening statements, he assured that his client had taken advantage of the Hollywood culture of “couch promotion”. Prosecutor Paul Thompson, on the other hand, painted the portrait of an “almighty” producer, who used his power to rape or sexually assault five women. And several others, who will be allowed to testify over the next two months, just like actor Mel Gibson, to whom one of Weinstein’s accusers confided.
Up to 140 years in prison
The 70-year-old former king of cinema, with award-winning hits like pulp Fiction Where The Artist, has already been convicted in New York where he has been serving a 23-year prison sentence since 2020, also for rape and sexual assault. A verdict which was a founding event for the #Metoo movement born just five years ago in the United States and which triggered an ongoing global wave against sexual violence against women.
This time Harvey Weinstein faces eleven counts for alleged rape and sexual assault of five women in hotels in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles between 2004 and 2013.
His ultra-massive stature and enormous influence in the movie industry made him believe he had every right to assault his victims in hotel rooms, the Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney thundered. These women “were afraid that he would destroy their careers if they told what he was inflicting on them”, denounced Paul Thompson who will have to convince for two months a popular juror of nine men and three women who will decide whether or not to aggravate the fate of the former kingmaker of American cinema.
Eight women should present themselves at the bar and “each independently of one another, without knowing each other”, assured Thompson. Jurors are expected to hear testimony from victims who begged Weinstein to stop raping them, as he allegedly forced them to perform oral sex on him or watch him masturbate.
“He is tall, massive, overweight and dominating,” one of them testified to the investigators to explain his submission, his terror and his silence. “I was afraid that if I was not good, something would happen to me in the room or outside because of his power” in the middle of the cinema, had told another woman.
Weinstein was so influential and so feared that he displayed his “power with American presidential candidates”, denounced the prosecutor by showing a photo of the producer alongside Democrat Hillary Clinton beaten in 2016 by Donald Trump.
Among the five accusers – who will all testify in Los Angeles under the pseudonym of “Jane Doe” – is Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom. If found guilty, Harvey Weinstein – who has pleaded not guilty to all counts – could face an additional 140 years behind bars.
Weinstein’s lawyer assured that he would prove that all relationships were consensual. “In Hollywood, sex is transactional. This is the culture of couch promotion. He took advantage of them too. They slept with him because he was powerful.
After an initial rejection by the court, the New York Supreme Court finally allowed the former producer in August to appeal his 2020 conviction, bringing a new dimension to the Los Angeles trial.