Harvey Weinstein Indicted On New Sex Crimes Charges (Photo Credit: Twitter)
New York :
Harvey Weinstein has been indicted on new sex crime charges in Los Angeles, just as his trial on separate rape and sexual assault charges in New York was poised to get underway, prosecutors announced Monday. The Hollywood mogul has been charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a news release.
"We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them," Lacey said in a statement.
"I want to commend the victims who have come forward and bravely recounted what happened to them. It is my hope that all victims of sexual violence find strength and healing as they move forward."
Weinstein allegedly raped a woman in a hotel room on February 18, 2013, after he pushed his way inside her room, prosecutors said. The next night, he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in a Beverly Hills hotel suite.
Weinstein faces up to 28 years in state prison if he is convicted of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint. His arraignment has not yet been scheduled and prosecutors will recommend USD 5 million bail.
The news came the same day that Weinstein and several of the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct converged Monday at the New York City courthouse where a judge and his lawyers handled the final preparations for his high-stakes trial on charges of rape and assault.
Speaking at the New York courthouse Monday prior to the announcement, Weinstein's attorneys suggested they knew charges might be coming. They asked the judge for potential jurors to be sequestered partly because of the possibility that charges could be brought elsewhere against Weinstein while the trial was ongoing. The denied that request.
"There is a potential LA situation going on," his lawyer, Donna Rotunno, told reporters after the hearing.
"We don't know what is going to happen. We're hoping not," added another of his lawyers, Damon Cheronis. "We have no control over what happens in Los Angeles or anywhere else."
Earlier Monday, Weinstein, 67, entered the courthouse in New York leaning on a walker following a recent back surgery. When asked outside the courtroom how his back felt, Weinstein responded with a thin smile and a so-so gesture with his hand.
"Not so good," he said. "Better."
Inside, his lawyers and prosecutors spent the morning sparring about procedural matters, including how to keep publicity surrounding the trial from influencing the jury's thinking.
In a brief hearing, the judge declined to gag Weinstein's attorneys from speaking to the media, in addition to denying the motion to sequester jurors. The judge also turned down a defense request to call as a witness a police detective who had been accused of mishandling part of the case.
Across the street, actresses and other women who say they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Weinstein dismissed him as a villain undeserving of anyone's pity.
"He looked cowardly. He wouldn't look at us. He wouldn't make eye contact," said Sarah Ann Masse, a performer and writer who said Weinstein once sexually harassed her in his underwear during a job interview. "This trial is a cultural reckoning regardless of its legal outcome," she said.
Jury selection in the trial will start Tuesday, more than two years since the allegations first came to widespread public attention and catalyzed the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein's lead lawyer, Donna Rotunno, said she was hopeful a fair jury could be found that wouldn't pre-judge the case.
"In this great country, you are innocent until proven guilty,? she told reporters outside the courthouse.
Weinstein faces allegations that he raped one woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a woman, Mimi Haleyi, who had come to him seeking film work in 2006.
He has pleaded not guilty and says any sexual activity was consensual. If he's convicted of the most serious charges against him, two counts of predatory sexual assault, Weinstein faces a mandatory life sentence.
For that to happen, prosecutors must demonstrate Weinstein had a habit of violating women, beyond the two directly involved in the encounters in which he's charged. To that end, they plan to call actress Annabella Sciorra, who says Weinstein forced himself inside her Manhattan apartment in 1993 or 1994 and raped her after she starred in a film for his movie studio.
They also wanted jurors to hear from a few of the more than 75 women who have come forward publicly to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault. The first allegations were brought to light by The New York Times and The New Yorker in October 2017.
Prosecutors got permission from the court to try to buttress their case with four other witnesses: Sciorra and three other accusers who haven't been named.
One of those women said she had an encounter with Weinstein at a Manhattan hotel in 2004. A second was to testify about an interaction with Weinstein at a SoHo apartment in 2005. A third was described in court papers as having had an incident with Weinstein at a hotel in Beverly Hills, California, in February 2013.