Everything you need to know about the Harvey Weinstein rape trial

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Hannah-Rose Yee

The trial of the disgraced studio mogul is now underway. This is what you need to know.

UPDATED ON 8 JANUARY 2020: Two years after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein sent shockwaves through Hollywood and triggered a global Me Too movement, the disgraced movie mogul’s New York trial is now underway.

In what is likely to be one of the most high-profile trials of the century, a jury is set to hear the charges against Weinstein, which include predatory sexual assault, a criminal sexual act, first-degree rape and third-degree rape. 

The charges concern the alleged assaults on two different women, one in 2006 and another in 2013. Weinstein has entered a plea of not guilty on all counts and has denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, a two-year investigation in LA has resulted in new criminal charges against Weinstein. Coincidentally, these were announced on the first day of his New York trial.

So what comes next in the case against Weinstein? 

How will the jury be selected for Harvey Weinstein’s trial?

UPDATED ON 8 JANUARY 2020: The rape trial of Harvey Weinstein is now underway, beginning with the jury selection process, which could last up to two weeks, according to the New York Times.

On Tuesday at New York’s supreme court, potential jurors were read out a list of 90 people – including actors Salma Hayek, Rosie Perez and Charlize Theron – who might come up during the trial as either witnesses or mentions.

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In 2018, Hayek penned an essay accusing Weinstein, who she called “my monster”, of sexual harassment. Theron has previously gone on the record saying that Weinstein spread rumours about them having sex. However, she has not accused him of any other sexual misconduct.

After being read out the list of names by the judge, the potential jurors were told these people could testify or be discussed during the case at some point.

They were then asked if they knew these people and, if so, whether they would be able to remain impartial.

The New York Times reports that one-third of the potential 120 jurors asked to be excused as they did not believe they could be fair – 24 of these people were women.

The final jury selection is yet to be confirmed.

What has happened in Harvey Weinstein’s trial so far?

AS REPORTED ON 8 JANUARY 2020: It’s been less than a week since the trial kicked off, but the drama has already begun.

On the second day of Weinstein’s rape trial, the judge threatened to revoke the former producer’s bail for using his phone in the courtroom.

“Mr Weinstein, I cannot implore you more not to answer the phone,” James Burke of New York county supreme court said, as per The Guardian.

“Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life – by texting in violation of a court order?”

Judge Burke then told Weinstein’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, that if he caught Weinstein on his phone again, he would revoke the move producer’s $2 million bail.

Burke then told Aidala: “My advice to you is before you come into the courtroom take his [Weinstein’s] cellphone and put it in your briefcase. It’s my understanding that he did hand over his phone, but then he had two more.”

While Weinstein’s need for three phones remains a mystery, one thing is clear: there is plenty more drama to come.

Weinstein arriving at court this week.

What is the Los Angeles investigation into Harvey Weinstein? 

AS REPORTED ON 8 JANUARY 2020: On the first day of his New York trial, new criminal charges against Harvey Weinstein were announced by Los Angeles prosecutors, following a two-year investigation.

The disgraced movie mogul was charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013, LA officials said, as per The Guardian. The charges include forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint.

If convicted, Weinstein faces up to 28 years behind bars, prosecutors said.

“We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them,” LA district attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement.

Two years ago, a taskforce was formed in Los Angeles to investigate allegations of assault within Hollywood and the wider entertainment industry. As part of this investigation, prosecutors were looking into eight instances of alleged sexual assault perpetrated by Weinstein, TIME reported. 

When is the trial against Harvey Weinstein happening? 

AS REPORTED ON 8 JANUARY 2020: The long-awaited trial began on January 6 in New York’s State Supreme Court. It could see dozens of women called by prosecutors to establish a patter of behaviour, and is expected to last at least two months.

Weinstein was set to face court in September 2019 but the trial was continuously delayed.

Appearing before Judge James Burke in New York on 26 August, Weinstein was asked if he was ready for the trial. The producer laughed and responded “not really“. Burke then moved the trial to January in order to give Weinstein’s legal team more time to prepare. The judge also reprimanded Weinstein for using his mobile phone during his court appearance.

“I’ve been informed you have taken your cell phone out,” Burke said. “Please refrain from doing that.” When Weinstein made a show of answering Burke, the judge replied: “It’s a court order. Don’t talk to me.” 

This is the third time the trial has been moved. It was originally intended to commence in March, but was moved back to 3 June in February in order to give Weinstein’s legal defence team more time to work on the case.

Harvey Weinstein with his lawyer in court on 9 July 

At one point, there was some debate over whether the trial would happen at all, after lawyers for Weinstein filed a motion to dismiss all charges against the producer in late 2018. But on 20 December Judge Burke denied the motion to dismiss and ruled that the trial would go ahead as planned.

“No basis for the defendant’s claim of prosecutorial or law enforcement misconduct in the proceedings,” was the judge’s ruling.

What are the charges against Harvey Weinstein?

AS REPORTED ON 27 AUGUST 2019: More than 80 women, including Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, Lupita Nyong’o and Asia Argento have made claims of sexual misconduct, assault and even rape against Weinstein in the media. 

But the case being tried in court pertains to two specific incidents brought against Weinstein by two different anonymous victims. The first involves forced oral sex in 2006 in Weinstein’s New York apartment. The second was the alleged rape of a woman in a hotel room in 2013. The third charge, which was dismissed in October 2018, was brought by Lucia Evans, who alleged that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004.

Weinstein handed himself into police in May 2018, and was formally indicted in July. He was released on a $1 million (£751,000) bail and asked to hand over his passport and wear a tracking device in order to prevent him from fleeing US jurisdiction. 

On 26 August, Weinstein plead not guilty to a third instance of predatory sexual assault alleged by the actor Anabella Sciorra of The Sopranos. As outlined in her original account in The New Yorker, Sciorra alleges that Weinstein raped her at her New York apartment in 1993. “I was so ashamed of what happened,” Sciorra told Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker. “And I fought. I fought. But still I was like, ‘Why did I open that door? Who opens the door at that time of night?’ I was definitely embarassed by it. I felt disgusting. I felt like I had fucked up… I don’t even think I told the therapist. It’s pathetic.” 

Because the alleged assault happened outside of New York’s statute of limitations it will not be brought as a new charge against Weinstein. However, prosecutors can use Sciorra’s testimony as further evidence against Weinstein as  “sexual predator”. The producer’s defence team have said that the decision to call Sciorra as a witness is “desperate” and a testament to the “weak” stature of the prosecution’s case. 

What kind of jail time do these charges carry?

Harvey Weinstein handed himself into police in May 2018

AS REPORTED ON 27 AUGUST 2019: According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr, the charges carry “a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment”. 

Vance Jr added that these charges involved “some of the most serious sexual offences that exist under New York’s penal law.” 

“This indictment is the result of the extraordinary courage exhibited by the survivors who have come forward. Our investigation continues. If you are a survivor of the predatory abuse with which Mr Weinstein is charged, there is still time to pursue justice.”

Is there the chance of a financial settlement in the Harvey Weinstein trial? 

AS REPORTED ON 27 AUGUST 2019: Weinstein has already reached a settlement deal with a number of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. This is a separate civil case to the criminal trial about to take place in New York.  

In this civil case a number of women are set to receive some $44 million in financial settlements from Weinstein. “That $44 million is not coming from Harvey Weinstein himself,” Corinne Ramey of The Wall Street Journal told NPR. “It’s actually coming from insurance policies.” 

The break down of this settlement is thus: $30 million for the accusers, creditors and employees of The Weinstein Company, with the remaining $14 million going to cover legal fees. 

Who is the legal team defending Harvey Weinstein? 

Harvey Weinstein Weinstein going to court in June

AS REPORTED ON 27 AUGUST 2019: Good question. 

There has been much movement within Weinstein’s legal team. At first, the film producer was represented by Benjamin Brafman, who was behind the motion to dismiss the criminal charges against the producer from 2018.

But in January Brafman quit, reportedly over repeated disagreements with Weinstein about the direction of the case. 

Benjamin Brafman 

After Brafman’s exit, Weinstein hired Jose Baez and Ronald Sullivan to spearhead his defence. Most recently Baez and Sullivan were seen defending Rose McGowan – one of Weinstein’s most vocal accusers – against drug possession charges after being found with cocaine in her wallet at an airport.

According to reports from the New York Post Weinstein is searching for another female lawyer to join this “dream team” of attorneys to join the two women from Baez and Sullivan’s firms already defending him. It’s just that Weinstein doesn’t want to pay top dollar for this lawyer, the reports allege.

“People around Harvey are saying he’s desperately trying to hire a ‘skirt’ – their term – for the team as he feels it will soften his image,” the New York Post reports. “Harvey does not want to pay premium fees,” an anonymous source added. Instead, he hopes that the female lawyers will work for less money in exchange for the ‘exposure’ of defending such a high profile case.

Who are the other lawyers involved?

AS REPORTED ON 27 AUGUST 2019: According to the New York Post, Weinstein wanted Pamela Mackey to defend him, but the pair “had a serious disagreement over her fee”. 

Isabelle Kirshner, one of New York’s top criminal defense lawyers, and Susan Necheles, currently defending the heiress Clare Bronfman against the NXIVM cult charges, both refused to join Weinstein’s legal team. He has also considered hiring Linda Fairstein, the former New York sex crimes ADA who was involved in the Central Park Five wrongful convictions, as a consultant.

Linda Fairstein

This isn’t the first time a woman has resigned from defending Weinstein.

Back in 2017, the producer hired Lisa Bloom – daughter of the renowned women’s rights lawyers Gloria Allred – to form part of his defensive team when allegations of sexual misconduct and assault were made against him in reports by The New York Times and The New Yorker. (In a twist of fate Allred is now representing Sciorra as she gives testimony against Weinstein.) 

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Bloom released a statement regarding her decision to take on Weinstein as a client describing him as an “old dinosaur learning new ways” and that she had “been blunt with Harvey and he listened to me”. But after backlash from several sources, including her own mother, Bloom resigned from Weinstein’s team.

“Had I been asked by Mr Weinstein to represent him, I would have declined, because I do not represent individuals accused of sex harassment,” Allred said at the time. “I would consider representing anyone who accused Mr Weinstein of sexual harassment, even if it meant that my daughter was the opposing counsel.” 

Images: Getty


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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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