Harvey Weinstein trial: Ex-movie mogul ‘a titan and a rapist’

Harvey Weinstein arrives at court in New York on Wednesday Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The 67-year-old denies five charges, including rape and sexual assault

Opening arguments have begun in the trial in New York of ex-movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, who could face life behind bars if convicted.

The 67-year-old denies five charges, including rape and sexual assault, relating to two accusers.

Prosecutor Meghan Hast said: “The man seated right there was not just a titan in Hollywood, he was a rapist.”

The defence will argue the encounters with the two accusers were consensual and Mr Weinstein committed no crimes.

The trial is expected to conclude in early March.

Mr Weinstein arrived at the Manhattan court flanked by several members of his team. When asked by a reporter if he could get a fair trial, he replied: “Of course.”

Once one of Hollywood’s most decorated and lauded producers, Mr Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women – allegations which helped drive the #MeToo movement.

But few of the complaints have led to criminal charges.

Last week, a judge told potential jurors that they must decide Mr Weinstein’s case based on the evidence and not make it “a referendum on the #MeToo movement”.

What were the prosecution’s opening arguments?

Ms Hast, the Manhattan assistant district attorney, said that the evidence would show Mr Weinstein was a “sexual predator and a rapist”.

She said the defendant had used “his power and prestige in the entertainment industry to ensure [accusers’] silence… Although they’re strangers to one another, they’ll each describe to you their shame and humiliation following their violent encounters with the defendant.”

Ms Hast gave explicit details of allegations by three women, only two of whom are on the charge sheet. The third is actress Annabella Sciorra. Her alleged incident occurred too long ago to be prosecuted under New York state law, but prosecutors filed the indictment because it would allow them to call her as a witness during the trial.

Mimi (Miriam) Haleyi. A former production assistant who accuses Mr Weinstein of performing a forcible sex act on her in 2006. Ms Hast said Mr Weinstein had tempted Ms Haleyi with job opportunities and after having had her brought to his apartment, lunged at her, pushed her on to a bed and forced her into the sex act.

Jessica Mann. An actress named for the first time. Ms Hast said Ms Mann had had encounters with Mr Weinstein over a number of years, and would testify that Mr Weinstein had raped her multiple times.

Annabella Sciorra. Ms Hast said the actress would testify that she had been “violently raped” by the defendant in the winter of 1993-94.

Ms Hast said the defendant had kept his alleged victims close so they would not report his actions.

What will the defence say?

The 67-year-old has admitted that he has “caused a lot of pain”, but maintains he is innocent of any crimes.

“Mr Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual,” his spokeswoman said soon after the first allegations emerged.

Before the opening of the trial, Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis said that his opening argument would tell jurors that the accusers had sent “loving emails” and “bragged” about their sexual relationships with him.

Lead lawyer Donna Rotunno said her client had a “slew of witnesses ready to go”.

She has said the evidence will exonerate the movie mogul of any criminal wrongdoing. “I’m not here to say he was not guilty of committing sins,” she said. “But there’s a difference between sins and crimes, and I don’t think he’s a rapist.”

The defence is also expected to question the recollections of the accusers.

It will also present its opening arguments on Wednesday.

Mr Weinstein himself is unlikely to testify.

How did the criminal charges come about?

They stem back to May 2018, when Mr Weinstein turned himself in to New York police after some of the allegations received wide publicity. He was then charged with rape and several other counts of sexual abuse against two women.

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Media captionHired by Weinstein to extract information on celebrities

He was released on $1m (£760,000) bail the following month and pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault in the New York Supreme Court.

There were originally six charges, but in October that year a New York judge dismissed one of them after prosecutors said one of his accusers had given a witness a different account of the alleged sex assault from the version she had given them.

In August 2019, Mr Weinstein pleaded not guilty to two additional charges of predatory sexual assault relating to Annabella Sciorra.

Mr Weinstein unsuccessfully tried to get the trial moved out of New York City, arguing that the intense media scrutiny would make it hard for him to get a fair hearing.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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