Weinstein jury mulls verdict in Hollywood rapes case
Former film producer Harvey Weinstein (Photo by POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
Jurors in Los Angeles began deciding the fate of Harvey Weinstein on Friday, weighing rape and sex abuse charges that could see the former Hollywood titan jailed for the rest of his life.
A weeks-long trial has heard graphic descriptions of encounters in California hotel rooms between the once-powerful producer and women who were trying to make their way in the world of movies.
Prosecutors have painted a picture of a predatory ogre, who used his physical and professional prowess to rape and abuse women for years with impunity.
His victims were left terrorized and afraid for their careers if they spoke out against a man who dominated Tinseltown for decades, the lawyers said.
Weinstein, the “Pulp Fiction” producer who is already serving a 23-year sentence in New York for a series of attacks, denies the raft of Los Angeles charges.
His attorney has sought to portray accusers either as liars who never had sex with his client, or as women who willingly lay on the casting couch, swapping sex for a leg up in the notoriously competitive world of filmmaking.
Weinstein, now 70, is charged with seven sex-related counts involving four women, one of whom has been identified by her lawyer as Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.
“It is time for the defendant’s reign of terror to end,” prosecutor Marlene Martinez told the jury in her closing argument on Thursday.
“It is time for the kingmaker to be brought to justice.”
Weinstein, who was credited with making the careers of household names like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Gwyneth Paltrow, used his power to prey on and silence women, Martinez said.
The jury heard testimony from women who said they had been tricked into being alone with the “Shakespeare in Love” producer in his hotel room.
Several described how they had begged him to stop as he forced himself on them, made them perform oral sex on him, or watch him masturbate, sometimes as he groped them.
“We know the despicable behavior the defendant engaged in,” Martinez told the jury.
“He thought he was so powerful that people would… excuse his behavior.
“‘That’s just Harvey being Harvey. That’s just Hollywood.’ And for so long that’s what everyone did. Everyone just turned their heads.”
Defending Weinstein, Alan Jackson told the jury the prosecution had failed to provide evidence that any of the sexual encounters were anything but consensual.
The entirety of the prosecution’s case could be summed up with five words — “Take my word for it,” he said.
Two of the four women at the center of the charges described encounters that never happened, he said.
The two others were women who knowingly engaged in transactional sex and now regretted it, Jackson said, part of what he called a “dogpile” on Weinstein in the wake of the explosion of the #MeToo movement.
Referring to Siebel Newsom, he said she “cannot square in her mind that she’s a successful, well-educated, well-bred, refined woman who had consensual sex with Harvey Weinstein in exchange for opportunity and access.
“Regret is far from rape. You don’t get to rewrite your own history no matter who you’re married to.”
Weinstein did not testify in his own defense.
If convicted, he could face more than 100 years in jail.
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