Prosecution rests at Harvey Weinstein’s Los Angeles trial
After a month of harrowing testimony from women who say they were raped by the most powerful man in Hollywood, Los Angeles prosecutors rested their case against Harvey Weinstein on Thursday.
Weinstein, 70, has sat stoically in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom as a group of eight former models and actors cried, screamed and cursed at times while describing brutal attacks in hotel rooms in Southern California, London and Puerto Rico.
Many of the women said they felt unable to fight off the massive Weinstein in the moment and then feared reporting him to police for years because he could end their careers with a phone call.
Much of the case has centered on the #MeToo movement, of which Weinstein became the archvillain after investigative reports published by the New Yorker and the New York Times in 2017.
Many of Weinstein’s victims did not come forward to police until after the movement began, believing the sheer number of women speaking out would insulate any one individual from being steamrolled by Weinstein and his army of attorneys and public relations professionals.
But Weinstein’s defense counsel has sought to paint the timing of the reports as convenient, saying many of the victims were engaging in revisionist history and are now describing previously consensual, “transactional” relationships with Weinstein as rape.
The defense will begin presenting its case Nov. 28, after a one-week break for the Thanksgiving holiday. Attorneys Mark Werksman and Alan Jackson have not said whom they plan to call, and it is unclear whether Weinstein will testify.
If convicted as charged, Weinstein faces a de facto life sentence in a California prison on top of the 20 years remaining on his sentence stemming from a 2020 rape conviction in New York. Weinstein has denied all wrongdoing and is appealing the New York case.
Weinstein was originally charged with 11 counts of rape and sexual battery in L.A. County, but four of those charges were dismissed earlier this week, when Deputy Dist. Atty. Paul Thompson admitted he was “unable to proceed” on the allegations made by a woman identified only as Jane Doe 5.
Neither Thompson nor Weinstein’s attorneys have commented on the matter, but sources have told The Times the woman lives outside the country and could not be compelled to testify by the district attorney’s office.
The prosecution’s case wrapped up this week with much of the focus on the intense testimony of Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Before she met her husband, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Siebel Newsom was an aspiring actor in 2005 when Weinstein summoned her to a room at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.
She alleged that what she believed was a meeting about her career spiraled into a violent sexual encounter when Weinstein emerged from a bathroom in a robe touching his penis.
For 45 minutes, she said this week, Weinstein repeatedly told her a number of A-list actors had had sex with him to advance their careers. Siebel Newsom said she cried and begged him to leave her alone, even bringing up the death of her sister at one point.
Eventually, she alleged, he forced himself on her. Unable to escape, Siebel Newsom said she feigned an orgasm and stroked Weinstein’s penis in a desperate bid to end the assault.
“I just did it to make it stop,” Siebel Newsom said Monday. “I just wanted to get the f— out of there. Excuse my language. I’m sorry, I just wanted to get out.”
The Times does not identify victims of sexual assault unless they name themselves in civil court proceedings or speak out publicly. While the women testifying against Weinstein did so anonymously, Siebel Newsom accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct in a 2017 essay. Others either testified in his New York trial or have accused him of rape in news conferences or lawsuits.
The final accuser to take the stand against Weinstein was actress and model Natassia Malthe, who described a 2008 attack inside a London hotel after the British Academy Film Awards. For several hours Wednesday, Malthe — who publicly accused Weinstein of assault in 2017 with her attorney, Gloria Allred, at her side — talked through her troubling years-long dynamic with the mogul.
The two first met in 2002 in New York, where Malthe claimed Weinstein leered at her while she sat next to supermodel Naomi Campbell, but they never actually spoke. Five years later, she said Weinstein approached her at Fashion Week in Manhattan and asked for her hotel room number, but Malthe ignored him.
A year later, at the BAFTA awards, Malthe said she felt her career was ascendant. She had been chosen to model as the face of a $100-million marketing campaign and believed she was under a microscope during the trip to London. Then Weinstein appeared at her door.
“My publicist schooled me that when you are the face of a brand, your image had to be responsible, you had to be squeaky clean,” she said. “Anything that could ruin my reputation was bad for the brand.”
Fearing Weinstein’s ruckus would draw her unwanted attention, Malthe said she opened the door.
Weinstein told her “no one gets to be like an A-lister unless it goes through me,” then pushed her onto the bed and raped her, Malthe alleged. The model said she froze as she thought about how much influence Weinstein could wield in her life beyond that moment.
“The asymmetrical power situation was so large. I felt like there was this powerful guy who could ruin my career, who had the destiny of people’s life in his hands,” she said. “I was 98 pounds at the time because I refused to eat. I was eating just vegetables to fit into the clothes that I was given. … He was larger than now ... maybe triple the size.”
But Malthe’s testimony also invited the defense to grill her about her decision to stay in touch with Weinstein after the alleged assault, a tactic they’ve employed repeatedly against Siebel Newsom and other witnesses.
Malthe said Weinstein later sent her a script for a musical. She attended an audition for the project, titled “Nine,” resulting in her once again being pulled into a situation where she was alone with Weinstein and another woman. Malthe said she watched the woman perform oral sex on Weisntein but rejected their offers to have a threesome.
Years later, Malthe said she and Weinstein spoke at the American Film Institute festival in Los Angeles. According to Malthe’s testimony, she confronted him and questioned if he had visited a therapist, but she later said she had also watched him shower naked.
Malthe described the moment as one where she felt Weinstein was “human” and then described another situation where she wound up alone with Weinstein and, she alleged, he began masturbating in front of her after she was led into a one-on-one meeting with the mogul.
“This is like the fourth time that you’ve followed along with some assistant against your will,” asked an incredulous Werksman. “Have you ever had your hand burned by touching a hot stove?”
Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.
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