Harvey Weinstein faces sexual assault and rape charges as L.A. trial begins

Former film producer Harvey Weinstein in court
Former film producer Harvey Weinstein during an Oct. 4 court hearing at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles.
(Etienne Laurent / Pool Photo)

The worlds of politics and Hollywood collided Monday in a Los Angeles courtroom as Harvey Weinstein’s trial on rape charges finally began in the city where he once held sway as a film-industry kingmaker.

During a blistering 90-minute opening statement, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Paul Thompson read quotes from the eight women expected to say Weinstein assaulted them, describing in their own words how they were terrified of both his massive size advantage and the enormous influence he wielded over their futures as actresses and models.

“I was scared that if I didn’t play nice, something could happen in the room or out of the room because of his power in the industry,” one woman said, according to Thompson.


Thompson also provided the most detailed account yet of Weinstein’s alleged rape of Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife, who worked as an actress in the early 2000s.

He showed jurors photos of Siebel Newsom and the governor to contrast her prominent role today in California politics to the “powerless actor trying to make her way in Hollywood” he said she was at the time of the alleged assault in a Beverly Hills hotel room.

Weinstein, 70, has been indicted on 11 counts of rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual battery in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills — charges that stem from alleged assaults on women between 2004 and 2013. If convicted, Weinstein faces a de facto life sentence in California. He is serving a 23-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2020 in New York of other rapes and assaults.

At the Los Angeles trial, which is expected to last several weeks, the women whose allegations form the basis of the charges against Weinstein will testify as “Jane Does.” Another group of women who are expected to testify about “prior bad acts” will be identified in court by their first name and last initial.

While The Times typically does not name victims of alleged sexual violence, Siebel Newsom and some of the women testifying against Weinstein have accused him publicly.

More than 80 women have claimed Weinstein sexually abused them since 2017, when investigations by the New York Times and the New Yorker brought the alleged assaults into the public eye and made Weinstein a central antagonist of the #MeToo movement. He has denied all wrongdoing.


Fallen Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for committing a criminal sex act against a production assistant and for raping an aspiring actress.

March 11, 2020

The #MeToo movement featured prominently in the opening argument of defense attorney Mark Werksman, who described the movement as an “asteroid” that struck Earth and changed the landscape of acceptable behavior.

Werksman said that Weinstein had only engaged in “casting couch” acts before the phrase “#MeToo” became a household term and that many of the women accusing him of wrongdoing had used “sex as a commodity” to get things from Weinstein.

Werksman claimed that two of the Jane Does in the Los Angeles trial fabricated their allegations against Weinstein and that two others, including Siebel Newsom, had “transactional sex” with the mogul.

“The accusers in this case, women who willingly played the game by the rules that applied back then, they will come into this courtroom now, with their lawyers in tow, and claim they were raped and sexually assaulted,” Werksman said. “They have to lie to themselves … to make what they did consensually back then seem like it was forced upon them.”

According to court records, Siebel Newsom will testify that Weinstein assaulted her sometime between September 2004 and 2005. She previously described the assault in a 2017 Huffington Post essay.

When the two met at a Beverly Hills Hotel, Weinstein said he wanted to discuss Siebel Newsom’s career, and when the Miramax co-founder showed up to the meeting with several assistants, she believed him.

But the others quickly left, and Siebel Newsom found herself alone with Weinstein, Thompson said. They spoke for a while about business, but then Weinstein disappeared to the bathroom and asked her to follow.

Weinstein was in a bathrobe and made a sexual overture which Siebel Newsom quickly declined, Thompson said. Weinstein then began talking about top-flight actresses whose careers he had launched in a tone that “moved from pleading to aggressive to demanding,” Thompson said.

Then, Weinstein shoved her onto a bed.

“She couldn’t get any words out because of her fear,” said Thompson, who alleged Weinstein forced himself on Siebel Newsom orally before raping her.

Thompson told jurors that many of the accusers maintained relationships with Weinstein after the alleged attacks because of his influence in Hollywood and on the political stage.

At one point, Thompson flashed a picture of Weinstein laughing alongside Hillary Rodham Clinton and noted he had pull “with presidential contenders.” Many of the women feared Weinstein “could crush their careers if they reported what he had done to him.”

Werksman seized on those communications, displaying emails in which one accuser said she had enjoyed seeing Weinstein years after an alleged assault. He also attacked Siebel Newsom for soliciting political donations from Weinstein, a longtime fundraiser for national Democrats, and for bringing her husband, then San Francisco’s mayor, to a party with the mogul in 2007.

“She brought her husband to meet and party with the man who raped her. Who does that?” Werksman asked.

Later, Werksman said that if Siebel Newsom had not risen to political prominence, she would be “just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”

The comment drew a quick condemnation from the Newsom camp.

“Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein and his enablers are once again resorting to their despicable, desperate, dishonest attack-the-victim playbook,” said Siebel Newsom’s civil attorney, Elizabeth Fegan. “The defense is callously engaging in misogynistic name-calling and victim-shaming — but survivors will not be deterred — and Weinstein should be found guilty once again.”

It is unclear what role, if any, the governor will play in the trial. He and his wife began dating after the alleged assault in 2006, but Weinstein’s defense team asked potential jurors last week about their feelings on the governor. Weinstein’s attorneys also plan to cross-examine Siebel Newsom about how she sought political donations from Weinstein.

The actor and director Mel Gibson is also expected to testify at the trial. Prosecutors say a woman identified as Jane Doe No. 3, who alleges Weinstein abused her in May 2010, described the assault to Gibson while giving the actor a massage.

Thompson said Monday that the victim is a professional masseuse whose clients included celebrities and athletes. But after giving Weinstein a massage in a hotel suite, he allegedly followed her into the bathroom, groped her breasts and masturbated.

When the woman protested, Weinstein responded it was “completely normal, he’d done it with so many people,” according to Thompson.

Weinstein offered a book deal to Jane Doe No. 3 after the assault, according to Thompson, who said she agreed to future consensual encounters with the mogul as a result. At one point, Thompson said, a future employer of Jane Doe No. 3 asked her to help him arrange a meeting with Weinstein.

“It’s going to cost you,” Weinstein said, and later ordered Jane Doe No. 3 to watch him masturbate, according to Thompson.

Prosecutors also plan to call Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a Filipina Italian model whose accusations against Weinstein in 2015 led to his arrest by New York City police and played a critical role in a New Yorker article that, in part, sparked Weinstein’s downfall. Manhattan prosecutors ultimately did not charge Weinstein for the alleged assault.

Battilana Gutierrez will testify that in 2015, Weinstein allegedly groped her during a meeting to discuss her career at the New York City offices of his eponymous company.

While the 11 criminal counts against Weinstein were based on the allegations of five women, Thompson made no mention to jurors of Jane Doe No. 5 on Monday, raising the prospect that she has decided not to testify.

Four of the 11 counts against Weinstein stem from allegations made by Jane Doe No. 5, court records show.

Tiffiny Blacknell, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said no charges had been dropped as of Monday but declined to explain why Jane Doe No. 5 was not mentioned during the hearing. The woman’s attorney, Gloria Allred, referred all questions to prosecutors.

An Italian model-actress met with Los Angeles police detectives for more than two hours Thursday morning, providing a detailed account of new allegations that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her at a hotel in 2013.

Oct. 19, 2017

Jane Doe No. 1, an Italian model who previously spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity, was the first victim to take the stand Monday. She has accused Weinstein of barging into her Beverly Hills hotel room after a 2013 film festival and assaulting her.

In her previous interview with The Times, the woman accused Weinstein of bragging about his influence in the film industry while demanding sexual favors. She begged him to leave and showed him pictures of her children, but Weinstein did not relent, she said.

“He grabbed me by the hair and forced me to do something I did not want to do,” she told The Times in 2017. “He then dragged me to the bathroom and forcibly raped me.”

On Monday, the woman could be seen taking big deep breaths and balling her hands into fists as she walked into the courtroom to face Weinstein.

After an hour of testimony, Thompson asked her to recount the assault. But she collapsed into tears after saying she was “crying” and “choking” during the attack, causing Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench to end proceedings for the day.