- Harvey Weinstein’s Los Angeles trial on criminal rape charges is entering it’s fourth week.
- So far, several accusers have testified and Weinstein’s lawyers have grilled their recollections.
- Some bombastic courtroom moments from the defense have animated the trial, and upset accusers.
Four weeks into Harvey Weinstein’s trial in Los Angeles, his lawyers have been mounting an aggressive defense of the disgraced mogul – but some moments of bravado have fallen flat.
In his ongoing LA trial, his second on rape charges, Weinstein has been charged with 11 counts of sexual assault stemming from allegations by five different women who accused the former producer of sexually abusing them between 2004 and 2013. Since opening arguments three weeks ago, his lawyers have adhered to a more brash playbook — at times eliciting emotional reactions from the accusers and stunned looks from the gallery.
On day one, October 24, Weinstein attorney Mark Werksman set the tone, claiming that the women accusing Weinstein of sexual assault had actually engaged in transactional sex with his client, and that Weinstein was the real victim. Werksman didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.
“An asteroid called the #MeToo movement hit earth with such ferocity that everything changed overnight,” Werksman said during opening arguments. “And Mr. Weinstein became the epicenter of the #MeToo movement.”
Weinstein’s appearance is mocked on day one to prove a point
Weinstein is already serving a 23-year sentence in a New York prison following his New York trial but faces an additional life sentence if convicted on all charges in Los Angeles. He has denied the charges in Los Angeles and pleaded not guilty.
“You’ll learn that in Hollywood, sex was a commodity,” Weinstein attorney Mark Werksman said during opening arguments in October. “It was the casting couch. Everyone did it. He did it. They did it. Because each wanted something from another.”
In a particularly brazen moment, Werksman urged jurors to take stock of Weinstein to prove his point about Weinstein providing access in Hollywood.
“Now look at him. He’s not Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Do you think those beautiful women had sex with him because he’s hot?” Werksman said during opening arguments. “No. They did it because he was powerful.”
Susan Crumiller, the founding attorney of law firm Crumiller PC, which currently represents a woman accusing former Saturday Night Live cast member Horatio Sanz of sexual assault, criticized the defense’s tactics.
“Weinstein’s serial sexual predation wasn’t like an asteroid or the weather,” Crumiller told Insider. “These were choices he made. I understand his longing for the days when he could continue to abuse women with impunity — but those days are over.”
Jennifer Siebel Newsom is called a ‘Bimbo’
Werksman had argued in the trial that two of the accusers were lying and that the other three engaged in consensual encounters with Weinstein for access. Weinstein’s attorneys had a more specific barb for documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom and one of the charging witnesses in the case who alleged that Weinstein raped her in 2005.
During opening arguments, Werksman posed the hypothetical that if Siebel Newsom “doesn’t characterize herself as a victim of rape, then she is just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”
The day of Werksman’s statement, Attorney Elizabeth Fegan, who represents Siebel Newsom and other accusers in the trial, told Insider that Weinstein and his counsel are “once again resorting to their despicable, desperate, dishonest attack-the-victim playbook.”
Crumiller told Insider the defense’s comments “will absolutely backfire.”
“Is Mark Werksman stuck in the 1950s?” Crumiller told Insider in an emailed statement. “Juries are smarter today than to think that women voluntarily have sex with disgusting men to advance their careers or that it’s okay to call a sexual assault survivor — or any woman — a ‘bimbo.'”
A bold courtroom demonstration
Last week, during Jane Doe 2’s testimony, she testified that as an up-and-coming actress in 2013, Weinstein groped her and masturbated in front of her at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills during a meeting where she was told that they would review her script.
She told the court that she said “no” multiple times during the encounter.
“I was scared of Harvey Weinstein — that he would hurt me, or send someone to hurt me, or ruin my career, or make my life hell,” she said during her testimony.
Weinstein attorney Alan Jackson grilled her recollection during cross-examination, calling into question whether Weinstein could strip naked as fast as she described.
Jackson removed his suit jacket in a bold courtroom demonstration and stated, “I’m just going to take my jacket off, I’m not going to go any further.”
“Please don’t,” Jane Doe 2 replied, as members of the gallery glanced around during the tense moment.
“I think it’s extremely inappropriate and could easily be retriggering,” Crumiller said. “I don’t want to watch lawyers stripping in the courtroom, especially in a sexual assault case.”
Jackson didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.
An accuser’s story is compared to the US economy
When Jane Doe 3, a masseuse, took the stand, a combative cross-examination ensued by Werksman.
Jane Doe 3 testified that she worked as a massage therapist who catered to celebrity clients, and attended an appointment in a hotel room with Weinstein in 2010.
She told the court that 40 minutes into the massage, Weinstein abruptly stopped her, saying he was done. And when she went to the bathroom to wash her hands, she said that Weinstein barged in naked and began masturbating, rejecting her pleas for him to stop. Weinstein groped her breasts underneath her bra, she testified.
Werksman claimed that Jane Doe 3’s story had changed over meetings with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and authorities between 2016 and 2020.
“Your story is like the US economy, with an 8% inflation rate,” Werksman said, a comment Judge Lisa Lench struck for being argumentative. He questioned why she remained on talking terms with Weinstein after the incident, seeing him again and discussing a potential naked massage book with staff from his publishing company.
“You didn’t want to kill the book deal and tell Weinstein, ‘Bad boy, no more massages,’ right?” Werksman said, sharing emails between Jane Doe 2 and a representative from Miramax Books, who had led Jane Doe 2 to Weinstein’s hotel room and asked her how it went.
“You could have said ‘your boss just ejaculated on my shoes.’ but you didn’t,” Werksman said.
“I was scared,” Jane Doe 2 replied.