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Harvey Weinstein faces up to 135 years to life if convicted in LA trial

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Harvey Weinstein will again stand trial for sex crimes this month, this time in Los Angeles for 11 counts of sexual assault. Weinstein has already been convicted of third-degree rape and a criminal sexual act in the first degree in New York and sentenced to 23 years in prison. If convicted again, Weinstein faces a sentence of up to 135 years to life. Today, things start with jury selection that's expected to last about two weeks.

James Queally is a reporter for the L.A. Times. Hey, there.

JAMES QUEALLY: Hey. How you doing?

KELLY: I'm all right. Thank you. I want to warn people listening that this conversation may contain details of sexual assault that could be disturbing to some listeners.

And I want to lay out what we know going in, which is many women have made allegations against Harvey Weinstein. In this trial, it is five Jane Does bringing the charges, including Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom. She has acknowledged through her attorney she is one of those Jane Does. Weinstein continues to deny assaulting any women. But what else do we know about these five whose allegations will form the crux of this trial?

QUEALLY: So three of the five women who are among the Jane Does are - have either been publicly identified or we at least know some of the contours of their allegation. Jane Doe 1 is an Italian model who spoke to a colleague of mine anonymously five years ago and told a tale of being assaulted after an Italian film festival in Los Angeles. She alleged Weinstein appeared uninvited at her hotel room in Beverly Hills and barged his way in and sexually assaulted her.

Jane Doe 2 is one of the women who testified against Weinstein in his New York case. She was not one of the women who sparked charges there, but she was one of what they call prior bad act witnesses, which prosecutors will often bring in sexual assault cases when they need to, you know, bolster the case and develop a pattern of possible...

KELLY: Right.

QUEALLY: ...Abuses, which obviously is an issue we have in the Weinstein case.

KELLY: Right. Weinstein, I mentioned he was found guilty in New York. He went to prison. Does that - but the - he has now been granted an appeal, and that could be argued next year. Does that put extra pressure on this trial in California?

QUEALLY: There is certainly some concern among advocates that Weinstein could - you know, is obviously a non-zero chance that he does win on appeal in New York, and that would vacate his sentence there. I do think it's important to note he has already lost one challenge to his New York conviction. His defense team had argued that there was a biased juror, that the prosecution was allowed to put in too much prior bad acts evidence at his sentencing hearing, and those arguments were all thrown out. So he has lost this argument before.

But, yes, if he were to be successful on that appeal in New York, then the only other venue in which he's currently facing criminal charges is Los Angeles. So this trial would ultimately determine if he's going to be free at any point for the rest of his life.

KELLY: Yeah. I mean, Harvey Weinstein is a much-diminished figure from the man who once ran Hollywood, if that's not too strong a way to put it. How closely is this trial being followed? Is this the talk of LA?

QUEALLY: Given some of the other news that's happened around LA in the past 24 hours, it is not. But it is definitely the largest trial that will happen there this year. I imagine you'll see media interest kick up as it gets going. But because, as you noted, most of the victims are unknown and he has already been convicted, I don't think it has the same lightning-rod appeal that it did in Manhattan. I don't know how much the introduction of Jennifer Siebel Newsom will change that. That was not public knowledge until this morning, so I guess we'll have to see if that draws more eyes to it.

But at the end of the day, as you noted, it was - Harvey Weinstein was, at one point, the king of Hollywood and is now facing criminal prosecution in Hollywood. I feel that will be hard for most sets of eyes and media agencies to ignore.

KELLY: Yeah. James Queally, who will be tracking it for The New York Times, thanks so much.

QUEALLY: For the Los Angeles Times, but thank you very much.

KELLY: For the Los Angeles Times. I beg your pardon, and thanks for correcting me.

QUEALLY: I'll take the promotion, though.

KELLY: (Laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Megan Lim
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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