NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted two women and used his power to cover it up, a prosecutor told a rapt courtroom at the start of the former Hollywood mogul's long-awaited trial.
More than two years after the publication of explosive allegations that launched the #MeToo movement, Weinstein went on trial on Wednesday (Jan 22) in a New York criminal case that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
Twelve jurors and about 100 onlookers listened intently as Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast delivered her opening argument.
"During this trial, you are going to learn that the defendant was a savvy New York businessman, that he was a famous and powerful Hollywood producer, living a life of luxury that most of us will never know," Hast told jurors in the lower Manhattan courtroom as she showed them a photo on an oversize TV screen of Weinstein in a tuxedo at a glamorous event.
Turning to point at the defendant, seated at the defence table about 6m away, she continued.
"But the evidence from the witness stand and from exhibits admitted during the trial will also show you that that man was a serial sexual predator and rapist," she said.
The trial marks an extraordinary moment in society's reckoning with decades of abuse and assault of women in entertainment and across industries – though New York State Supreme Court Justice James Burke has cautioned the jury that the trial "is not a referendum" on #MeToo.
Weinstein, 67, was once among the most powerful producers in the film industry, influencing American politics and culture. Now he will spend weeks listening as state prosecutors argue he wielded his clout to assault women and get away with it.
The Oscar winner is on trial for attacking two women, but prosecutors, seeking to demonstrate a pattern of "prior bad acts," say they will offer testimony from other women as well. He faces five criminal counts, including rape and predatory sexual assault.
"At the end of this trial," Hast told the jury, "the evidence will be clear that this man, seated at this table, was not only a titan in Hollywood but a rapist who assaulted women who refused to comply with his orders and used his power and prestige in the entertainment industry to ensure their silence."
The defence argues that any sexual encounters were consensual and says it will offer evidence, including emails some of the women exchanged with Weinstein, to prove it.
His lawyers will give their opening statement immediately after Hast concludes.
Testimony will begin later on Wednesday.
The jury – six white men, an African-American man, three African-American women and two white women – will decide whether Weinstein is guilty of raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on another in 2006 in his apartment in the city.
Weinstein's lawyers Read More – Source