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What to Know About Harvey Weinstein’s Los Angeles Trial

Harvey Weinstein Photo: Etienne Laurent/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Harvey Weinstein is headed back to court in Los Angeles for a second and — according to Variety — “more sprawling” trial, covering much of the same ground as his New York trial in early 2020. Those proceedings ended in Weinstein’s conviction on rape in the third degree and criminal sexual assault in the first degree, and earned him a 23-year prison sentence. That basically amounted to life behind bars, given the disgraced producer’s age (68 at time of sentencing) and his poor health. In L.A., he faces up to 140 years in prison along with testimony from nine of his alleged victims.

Below, everything we know about the trial.

What is Harvey Weinstein charged with in L.A.?

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office originally announced charges against Weinstein on January 6, 2020, as his trial began across the country, and it expanded its case later that year. In July 2021, a California grand jury indicted Weinstein on 11 counts stemming from his alleged assault of five different women between 2004 and 2013. Per an announcement from the D.A.’s office, Weinstein pleaded not guilty to four counts of forcible rape; four counts of forcible oral copulation; two counts of sexual battery by restraint; and one count of sexual penetration by use of force.

The D.A.’s office noted that a number of the alleged attacks occurred at hotels, in line with the bombshell reports on Weinstein’s serial predation that ran in 2017. Speaking to dozens of his victims — at least 100 of whom have since come forward — both the New Yorker and the New York Times laid out a pattern. Weinstein would, allegedly, target young women, typically models, aspiring actresses, or newcomers to the entertainment industry. He would often, according to the publications, lure them to hotel rooms on the pretext of discussing their careers, leveraging prospective roles against sexual favors and sometimes threatening their professional ruin if they didn’t comply. These women have accused Weinstein of offenses including inappropriate, insinuating comments, unwanted advances, groping, sexualized massages, and rape.

How is that different than the New York trial?

In substance, it’s not really different — in New York, the charges stemmed from Weinstein’s abuse of two women, former Project Runway assistant Miriam Haleyi and former actress Jessica Mann, and the jury heard from a total of six women who detailed and supported the claims. Included in that group were Weinstein victims, like actress Annabella Sciorra, whose own experiences backed up the charges. In Los Angeles, the jury will hear from nine of Weinstein’s accusers, one of whom reportedly took the stand as a supporting witness in New York — more on that below. But in short: same content, wider scope, and potentially also a longer sentence if Weinstein is convicted.

How is he on trial in L.A. if he’s in prison in New York?

Weinstein’s New York sentencing roughly coincided with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Although L.A.’s district attorney had already charged him at that point, COVID protocols and Weinstein’s aforementioned failing health (his attorneys have argued that he is “technically blind” and had lost four teeth by spring 2021; he now uses a wheelchair) meant it would take more than a year to extradite him for the second trial. A judge finally denied his attorneys’ requests for additional delays in June 2021, approving Weinstein’s transfer from Wende Correctional Facility in upstate New York to California.

Who is testifying in the L.A. trial?

As mentioned, nine of Weinstein’s alleged victims: Jane Does 1 through 5, plus other women who can corroborate his behavior and help establish a pattern. “Some of these victims, people will recognize them. Some of these women, you’ve seen them in movies, they’ve been in ad campaigns, a couple of them have achieved some success as actresses or models,” a Weinstein defense attorney, Mark Werksman, told the Los Angeles Times. Though they are referred to pseudonymously in the proceedings, they will testify without their faces obscured, making their identities clear.

Jane Doe 1 is reportedly an Italian model who previously told the L.A. Times that Weinstein “bullied his way” into her hotel room during the 2013 L.A.-Italia film-fashion-and-art festival after he showed up “without warning” in the lobby and she told him he couldn’t come up. The woman said that she had met Weinstein briefly in Rome and declined an invitation to his hotel room at the time; though they spoke at the festival, she didn’t think he remembered her. But “once inside,” she said, “he asked me questions about myself, but soon became very aggressive and demanding and kept asking to see me naked.” She said she pleaded with him to leave as he “bragged about his power and influence and told her not to fight him,” per the Times. “He grabbed me by the hair and forced me to do something I did not want to do,” the woman recalled. “He then dragged me to the bathroom and forcibly raped me.” Afterwards, he acted like nothing happened, she said, and continued to invite her to parties she did not attend.

The Times reports that Jane Doe 2 appears to be model Lauren Young, who told the New York jury that Weinstein assaulted her in a bathroom in 2013, during what was supposed to be a meeting about the screenplay she’d written. Jane Doe 4 is believed to be Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an actress and director who also happens to be married to California Governor Gavin Newsom. Siebel Newsom went public with her allegations against Weinstein in a 2017 HuffPost essay, writing that he made “aggressive advances” toward her during supposed work meetings. In court documents, Jane Doe 4 accuses Weinstein of forcible rape at a hotel sometime between September 2004 and September 2005.

But according to Deadline, the defense plans to argue that Siebel Newsom and Weinstein had consensual sex, citing an email she sent him about two years after the alleged attack, in 2007. The defense claims she asked Weinstein for advice on handling an affair Newsom, then the mayor of San Francisco, had with an aide. They apparently plan to argue that the email “indicates the friendship and companionship of Jane Doe 4 and Mr. Weinstein.”

In total, prosecutors reportedly plan to call some 50 witnesses in coming weeks. For the most part, their identities have not been made public, though Judge Lisa B. Lench has ruled that the actor Mel Gibson (himself accused of antisemitic, racist, homophobic, and domestic abuse ) can testify against Weinstein in support of Jane Doe 3, a masseuse whom a naked Weinstein reportedly masturbated at in 2010. Gibson is reportedly a friend and client of the masseuse, but defense attorneys have argued that he is biased against Weinstein because Weinstein is Jewish and also because he criticized Gibson’s depiction of Jews in The Passion of the Christ, per the Associated Press. The Judge will allow Gibson to be questioned about any “personal bias” he may have toward Weinstein, though not about his reputation more broadly.

What are the attorneys saying?

Opening arguments on October 24 took the same general tack as they did in New York, with Weinstein’s defense hitting their themes — women seeking sex with Weinstein in return for parts, using him, and then lying about it to cover their embarrassment — a little more vigorously this time around. “Look at my client,” Werksman told the court, according to Variety. “He’s not Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Do you think these beautiful women had sex with him because he’s hot? No, it’s because he’s powerful.”

Werksman argued that his client’s “casting couch” arrangement was the Hollywood norm before Me Too, which itself turned Weinstein into the industry’s Chernobyl: the “smoldering radioactive core of a nuclear meltdown.” But the women set to testify, Werksman alleged, were still actors. “They will play the part of the damsel in distress with this beast,” he told the jurors. “They have to lie to themselves, to you, to this court.” He added, “Their hypocrisy will be on full display.”

Prosecutors maintained that Weinstein exploited his power to ensure his victims’ silence. “They feared that he could crush their careers if they reported what he had done to him,” deputy district attorney Paul Thompson said of the witnesses, per the New York Times. Thompson focused on Siebel Newsom in particular, telling the court that when she met with Weinstein at his hotel, she expected to “discuss her career” in a public place. But when Weinstein moved it up to his room, he forced her onto the bed and raped her, Thompson said. In the years that followed, he added, she felt she had “no choice” but to stay in touch with him. Werksman, meanwhile, accused Newsom of exploiting Weinstein and Me Too to build clout. “She brought her husband to meet and party with her rapist. Who does that?” he said. Without proximity to her husband’s political career, Werksman added, Siebel Newsom would be “just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead.”

How long is this trial expected to take?

According to Variety, it could take up to two months — jury selection began on October 10 and, given the difficulty of finding jurors who haven’t already formed an opinion about Weinstein, was expected to take two weeks.

Will L.A. be the end of legal proceedings for Harvey Weinstein?

No. In August, a New York judge granted Weinstein’s petition to appeal the verdict in that trial, shortly after a lower court affirmed the conviction. Oral arguments in front of the State Court of Appeals could take place next year and may end with the full court upholding the original conviction, vacating or modifying it, or ordering a new trial. As of June, prosecutors in London had reportedly authorized indecent-assault charges against Weinstein stemming from two alleged incidents in 1996 and 1997. But for now, whatever the outcome of the L.A. trial, Weinstein still has a formidable chunk of his New York sentence to serve. Unless he makes a successful appeal, nothing will change that.

This article has been updated.

What to Know About Harvey Weinstein’s Los Angeles Trial