On the first day of Harvey Weinstein’s Los Angeles rape trial on Monday, the prosecution and defense offered searing, opposing opening arguments over his behavior and the accusers’ credibility, while a “Jane Doe” witness described a brutal sexual attack by the producer in a hotel room in 2013 where he forced her to perform oral sex on him.
Jane Doe 1, an actress and model who testified she was in Los Angeles around Oscar weekend for an Italian film festival in 2013, said Weinstein showed up to her hotel room unannounced even though she barely knew him. Under questioning from deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson she said she didn’t understand why he came to her hotel or how he knew she was staying there.
“I was confused,” she testified, at times with the help of an interpreter, when the front desk of Mr C hotel told her Weinstein was there to see her. “I didn’t understand what he was doing in the hotel.”
Testifying tearfully, the witness said that Weinstein showed up at her door, knocked loudly and forced his way into her room. She testified that he sat on the bed, took off his jacket and asked her to give him a massage. She asked him to go, telling him that she was a mother of three and tried to show him pictures of her children on her phone.
Weinstein did not listen and instead moved closer to her, she testified, and tried to take off her robe. He opened his pants, she said, “and he was touching himself,” she said. “I was panicking and started crying.”
The witness then broke down crying and heaved deep breaths on the stand as she recounted Weinstein forcing her to give him oral sex. He told her he was having problem with an erection, and that she had to help him, and after taking off his pants pushed her head down on his private parts. “I was crying, choking….” she testified.
Her testimony will continue on Tuesday.
Earlier: To counter a lurid laundry list of details the prosecution presented in the first day of Harvey Weinstein’s Los Angeles rape trial Monday, the defense went on the attack with an opening statement meant to besmirch the credibility of eight accusers – focusing in particular on Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of the sitting governor of California.
Siebel Newsom is the only accuser among eight women set to testify who has identified herself by name. The other seven were referred to Monday, the first day of testimony, by partial names and Jane Doe pseudonyms.
After the state spent the morning summarizing the stories of all eight women, defense attorney Mark Werksman took his turn just after the lunch break, and began chipping away at each, calling their encounters consensual and part of a well-established Hollywood system that only broke down after #MeToo caught fire.
“You’ll learn that in Hollywood, sex was a commodity,” Werksman said. “It was transactional sex. It may have been unpleasant, and embarrassing … but it was consensual. … It was the casting couch. Everyone did it. He did it. They did it. Because each wanted something from another.”
Werksman also emphasized that not a single case had an eyewitness, or forensic evidence. “No DNA, no semen, no saliva … no rape kits,” he said.
Werksman went one-by-one through the women’s stories, painting each as either a total fabrication or a friends-with-benefits situation. In one case, he said a massage therapist – Jane Doe No. 3 – who said she was cornered and assaulted actually had a deal with Weinstein to advance her book project “in exchange for her letting him masturbate in front of her after each massage.”
Bur Werksman saved much of his focus for Siebel Newsom, who was an aspiring actress before she began dating then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2006. Of the witness also known as Jane Doe No. 4, Werksman said: “Let’s not beat around the bush here. She’s a very prominent citizen of California.”
“She’s made herself a prominent victim in the #MeToo movement,” Werksman continued. “Otherwise she’d be just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”
Werksman pointed out that Siebel Newsom doesn’t remember the exact year of her alleged attack, and doesn’t find it credible that she was “trapped” by the disgraced producer.
“She was a self-confident ambitious Stanford business school graduate, a healthy 30-year-old physically fit former member of the national junior women’s soccer team. She was not trapped with Mr. Weinstein.”
She wanted help getting roles and producing films, Werksman said, and had a “consensual sexual relationship” to that aim, including faking an orgasm.
“She did not communicate a lack of consent,” he said. “Just the opposite.”
Before the trial began in earnest, Werksman argued in pre-trial conference for introducing Siebel Newsom’s emails sent to Weinstein in 2007. In them, a friendly Siebel Newsom asked Weinstein for guidance on how to handle bad press around her boyfriend Gavin Newsom days after a report surfaced about an affair he had with a campaign staffer’s wife in 2006. The judge ruled that he could generally reference friendly emails between them, but not delve into those details.
On Monday he said Jane Doe 4 stayed in touch with him for years and pursued an “personal and professional relationship” with Weinstein, at one point accepting a party invitation for the couple.
“She brought her husband to meet and party with the man who raped her. Who does that?” he said.
What’s more, Werksman said, Weinstein donated to Newsom in his mayoral bids and lieutenant governor races.
“He took money from his wife’s rapist to advance his political campaigns,” he said. “That’s the type of stuff you’re dealing with in this case.”
Testimony of Jane Doe No. 1 was expected to resume Tuesday.