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Trial against Harvey Weinstein begins with graphic descriptions of violent assaults

Former film producer Harvey Weinstein appears in a Los Angeles courtroom on October 4, 2022. Weinstein was extradited from New York to Los Angeles to face sex-related charges.
AFP via Getty Images
Former film producer Harvey Weinstein appears in a Los Angeles courtroom on October 4, 2022. Weinstein was extradited from New York to Los Angeles to face sex-related charges.

Updated October 24, 2022 at 8:46 PM ET

Opening with graphic quotes from Harvey Weinstein's accusers on Monday, referred to as Jane Does 1-4, Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson described Weinstein as a domineering media mogul at the top of his game, who used his prominence in the film industry to coerce aspiring actors into private meetings that quickly turned violent.

Weinstein is in Los Angeles for his second criminal trial, having been extradited from New York, where he's serving a 23-year sentence. This trial has even more accusers who recount Weinstein as an alleged sexual predator.

"I'm shaking and kind of being dragged into the bedroom," Thompson quoted one accuser saying.

"Part of me was thinking I should just make a run for it, but he's a big guy," he quoted another one saying.

"I was trying to convince him that it's nothing gonna happen... I was like please, I have kids," Thompson recounted for the jury.

Eight women will testify against Weinstein- the four Jane Does, and four other women who will attest to "prior bad acts" committed by Weinstein outside of Los Angeles. His accusers include the Governor of California's wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who was a "powerless actor trying to make her way in Hollywood" when Weinstein allegedly assaulted her in a hotel room during a 2005 film festival.

"Weinstein said 'it was completely normal, he'd done it with so many people,'" Thompson said, quoting Jane Doe 3, a licensed massage therapist who was allegedly assaulted and forced to watch Weinstein masturbate on several occasions.

Prosecutors also mentioned that each of the women can describe "abnormalities" on Weinstein's genitalia, "the result of a surgery the defendant had in 1999" that caused noticeable scarring.

Weinstein did not display any reaction to prosecutors' opening statements. The 70-year-old, who is said to be in poor health, was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair and slightly struggled to move to a seat at the defense table.

Weinstein's attorney, Mark Werksman, told the jury the prosecution's opening arguments were designed to "shock and awe," and said the allegations are "weak and unsubstantiated."

"You'll learn that in Hollywood, sex was a commodity," Werksman said. He defended Weinstein's actions as part of a "casting couch culture."

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all 11 of the charges. If found guilty in Los Angeles, Weinstein could face a maximum sentence of 140 years.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liz Baker
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
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