Harvey Weinstein Sex-Crimes Trial Begins In New York
Harvey Weinstein Sex-Crimes Trial Begins In New York

Disgraced mogul faces accusers as trial starts

Hunched over a walker and steadied by the arm by his lawyers, fallen movie mogul Harvey Weinstein looked a broken figure as he limped into court for the start of his Manhattan rape trial.

Across the road from the New York State Supreme Court, several of his accusers gathered in support of the two women whose accusations form the basis of five criminal charges that could see him spend decades in jail.

Harvey Weinstein was in court for the start of his sexual assault trial. Picture: AP
Harvey Weinstein was in court for the start of his sexual assault trial. Picture: AP

"As one of the silence-breakers, I stand in solidarity with the brave survivors who will take the stand against Harvey Weinstein in this trial," actress and director Rosanna Arquette said.

"While the emotion of the day runs high, I join these other brave women who were also harmed by Harvey Weinstein to say: we aren't going anywhere."

It comes as Weinstein was reportedly charged with new sex crimes in Los Angeles, with that city's district attorney to shortly hold a press conference announcing them.

LA prosecutors had previously said their entertainment industry taskforce was investigating eight cases involving Weinstein.

Weinstein, who admits relationships with several of his accusers but says any sexual activity was consensual, spent the weekend trying to defend himself publicly, saying he had been in therapy since media reports exposed decades of alleged predatory behaviour more than two years ago.

"The past two years have been gruelling and have presented me with a great opportunity for self-reflection," Weinstein wrote in an email to CNN.

 

Actor Rose McGowan, right, speaks outside court as actor Rosanna Arquette listens on. Picture: AP
Actor Rose McGowan, right, speaks outside court as actor Rosanna Arquette listens on. Picture: AP

"I realise now that I was consumed with my work, my company and my drive for success. This caused me to neglect my family, my relationships and to lash out at the people around me. I have been in rehab since October 2017, and have been involved in a 12-step program and meditation. I have learned to give up my need for control."

But his pitiful appearance and self-serving words did little to appease the women who say he ruined their careers and in some cases their lives.

"He looked cowardly," writer Sarah Ann Masse, who says she was harassed by an underwear-clad Weinstein during a job interview.

"He wouldn't look at us. He wouldn't make eye contact.

 

"This trial is a cultural reckoning regardless of its legal outcome."

And actress Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein's first and most prominent accusers who says she was raped by the disgraced producer, thanked the women who will stand in court for their bravery.

"They are standing for us, and I am immensely proud of them," she said.

"We didn't have our day. But hopefully they will. Their victory will be our victory. Their loss will be our loss.

Actress Rose McGowan, who has been one of Weinstein’s main accusers said she was “proud” of the women who have taken a stand. Picture: Getty Images
Actress Rose McGowan, who has been one of Weinstein’s main accusers said she was “proud” of the women who have taken a stand. Picture: Getty Images

"Today is a day for us to honour how far we've come and how much we've endured to get here, but it is not the end."

Jury selection will start on Tuesday (local time) and is expected to take weeks, with more than 100 potential jurors being screened each session over coming days.

Weinstein's first court appearance on Monday morning (local) time was brief and he left the downtown New York courthouse at 10.45am (2.45am AEDT).

While dozens of women including some of Hollywood's biggest names have accused Weinstein, 67, of sexual assault after he was first exposed as a serial predator by media reports in 2017, his New York trial centres on the allegations of two women.

Protesters outside court. Picture: Getty Images
Protesters outside court. Picture: Getty Images

Prosecutors have filed five criminal charges including two counts of predatory sexual assault that carry a mandatory life sentence.

The charges centre on different incidents with two women.

Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant, alleges he forced oral sex at his Manhattan home in 2006. The second woman is anonymous, and she accuses him of raping her at a New York hotel in 2013.

\Rosanna Arquette also accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Picture: AP
\Rosanna Arquette also accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Picture: AP

Several women are also being called to the stand as character witnesses testifying to his previous bad behaviour, including The Sopranos actor Anabella Sciorra, who has accused him of raping her in the 1990s.

He also faces a series of civil suits from actors Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and more than 30 other accusers, several of which are reportedly close to being settled in a $36.3 million payout.

Harvey Weinstein and actress Rose McGowan arriving to the premiere of Grindhouse at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, California, in 2007. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty
Harvey Weinstein and actress Rose McGowan arriving to the premiere of Grindhouse at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, California, in 2007. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty

Weinstein was one of Hollywood's most powerful men for decades and the production house he ran with his brother generated some of the most successful films of the 1990s and 2000s.

He was accused of using his prominent position to pressure women into sex, retaliating against those who refused him by destroying their careers and employing a series of shadowy operatives to gather dirt on his accusers to deter scrutiny of his behaviour.

Weinstein issued an apology at the time, acknowledging he had caused "a lot of pain", but disputed suggestions he had harassed women over three decades.

Harvey Weinstein (centre) leaving court following a bail hearing in New York. Picture: Mark Lennihan
Harvey Weinstein (centre) leaving court following a bail hearing in New York. Picture: Mark Lennihan

The media reports that eventually brought him down won Pulitzer Prizes for their authors and sparked a cultural reckoning that ended the careers of dozens of high profile men accused of sexual harassment and worse.

His lead lawyer yesterday said she was confident he would be found not guilty despite the battering his reputation has taken having sparked the #MeToo movement.

"For me, this is about talking to a jury about the fact that you don't have to like everything he's ever done in his life to find that he's not a rapist," lawyer Donna Rotunno said.

"He cheated on his wife. He made very bad decisions in business in terms of how he treated people. And he'd be the first one to admit those things were not nice."

Ms Rotunno told CNN the defence would show "a history of a relationship" with each accuser and that they took part in consensual sex.

"We have a lot of evidence that shows a continuing relationship between him and the women," she said.

Ms Rotunno added it was possible Weinstein would speak for himself at the trial, which is anticipated to dominate news coverage in the US for the next several weeks.

"It's possible that he may take the stand depending on how the evidence plays out," she said.

 

Oscar winners Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Mira Sorvino are among Weinstein's most high profile accusers.

On Saturday Sorvino added her name to 25 female accusers who released an open letter through the Times Up organisation to accuse Weinstein of being "a serial predator who sexually abused women for decades".

"Please add my name - I wholeheartedly support the fullest pursuit of justice against … Harvey Weinstein, and applaud the bravery of the women who will stand up to him in court," Sorvino said.

Actress Mira Sorvino. Picture: John Sciulli/Getty
Actress Mira Sorvino. Picture: John Sciulli/Getty

"I feel very protective. I want this to be OK," actor Rosanna Arquette told Associated Press.

"I think either way, whatever happens, it's still going to be hard for the people that came forward, in terms of retaliation. He's all about that."

Angelina Jolie. Picture: Jesse Grant/Getty
Angelina Jolie. Picture: Jesse Grant/Getty