Entertainment

Harvey Weinstein Rape Trial in Los Angeles Sees Closing Arguments and Accusers Smell Blood

Before he was a convicted rapist, Harvey Weinstein ruled Hollywood, acting as the tastemaker who decided the fate of cult-classic films and launched some of the most successful careers in industry history. But according to Los Angeles prosecutors, the now nearly-blind 70-year-old was actually a “degenerate rapist” who sexually assaulted at least four women between 2003 and 2014—and he still needs to face a fresh reckoning.

“We know he thought he was so powerful that people would excuse his behavior. ‘That’s just Harvey being Harvey.’ ‘That’s just Hollywood’… It’s time for the defendant’s reign of terror to end,” Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez told Los Angeles Superior Court jurors during closing arguments in the West Coast sex-crimes trial against Weinstein on Thursday.

The latest broadside against the disgraced former producer comes after five weeks of testimony against Weinstein, who has pleaded not guilty to seven charges, including rape. It also comes after a surprise move this summer by the New York State of Appeals allowing Weinstein to appeal his 2020 conviction on similar crimes—and, in turn, placing newfound importance on the L.A. case to decide his fate.

Several women who have previously accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct in the wake of the MeToo movement told The Daily Beast they are confident the topped titan will be a two-time convicted rapist. Even if he somehow were to reverse his conviction in New York, they say, they were feeling assured he faced the prospect of decades in prison on the charges in Los Angeles.

“I feel the prosecution has done a stellar job of building an irrefutable case that Weinstein was a predator—and this is so important for the public to hear,” Tomi-Ann Roberts, a former aspiring actress has accused Weinstein of harassing her when she was 20 years old, told The Daily Beast on Thursday.

The now professor of psychology at Colorado College alleges that in 1984, Weinstein lured her into his apartment to try out for a role after they briefly met at a restaurant. When she arrived, she says, she found the producer in the bathtub before he asked her to take off her shirt—which she refused to do, leaving immediately.

Roberts argued Thursday that prosecutors established an important element of Weinstein’s “M.O” by showcasing the “chilling similarities of how these assaults were set up [and] how the wolf prepared his den.” It’s a pattern she believes even the defense team’s harshest arguments cannot refute.

Outside legal experts were inclined to agree.

“The prosecution has a huge advantage because of the New York conviction,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told The Daily Beast. “There is a lot of pressure on them to convict, and it’s unlikely they will have the willpower to return on a not guilty verdict. The Weinstein defense of ‘transactional sex’ has failed once, and I expect it to fail again.”

Throughout the trial, eight women told jurors that Weinstein lured them under the guise of career development before sexually assaulting and/or threatening them into silence. Among the women are four at the center of Weinstein’s criminal charges—including the former actress and wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who told jurors that the disgraced producer raped her in 2005.

The four other women, identified as “bad act witnesses,” are not part of the criminal charges, but were allowed to testify to bolster the prosecution’s argument of Weinstein’s pattern of behavior.

Weinstein’s legal team has attempted throughout to argue that the allegations against their client are false—and that the women who testified are merely embarrassed by consensual “transactional sex” they had with an eye toward furthering their careers.

If convicted, Weinstein faces a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

During closing arguments, prosecutors focused on the testimony of the women at the crux of the charges, detailing the “unique similarities” between each of their assault allegations. Martinez said Weinstein would “zero in” on his target, offer them empty promises of career development, and eventually get the women alone in a hotel room before sexually assaulting them.

“There is no question that Harvey Weinstein is a predator,” she added. “He knew what he was doing…. He was a pro,” she added. “He was trying to set this up, so his lawyers could come in here and tell us it was ‘transactional sex.’ And his plan worked. Here we are.”

Martinez did not mention that Weinstein is already facing a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted in New York—nor did she mention its pending appeal. But Rahmani believes that even though “jurors aren’t supposed to consider it, they have to know that Weinstein is already serving 23 years.”

Louise Godbold is among the women watching closely—even though her own story is not part of the latest case against Weinstein.

A director for a Los Angeles nonprofit, Godbold says she met Weinstein in the early 1990s, when she was a commercial producer hoping to score an internship at Miramax. During the meeting, she says, Weinstein cornered her while giving her a tour of the New York officers—before grabbing her hand and putting it on his crotch. Afterwards, she says, Weinstein apologized and invited her to a hotel room the following month.

There, in a move reminiscent of allegations brought forward by accusers during the trial and previously in New York, Godbold says, Weinstein put on a bathrobe and asked for a massage. She left quickly afterwards and never went public with her story until October 2017.

“Harvey always felt he was above the law—why wouldn’t he? Everyone in his circle enabled or ignored his behavior. He still believes he will be able to appeal the New York conviction,” she told The Daily Beast on Thursday. “It would be a travesty of justice if he is not convicted on all counts in Los Angeles. Weinstein’s victims and powerful predators alike are closely watching the verdict in this trial.”

Weinstein’s defense team chose to deliver their closing arguments in the same cadence they’ve displayed throughout the trial: no-holds barred disdain.

At one point during opening statements, defense lawyer Mark Werskman went as far as to suggest that without Siebel Newsom’s current political profile, “she’d be just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead.”

On Thursday, defense attorney Alan Jackson said the evidence against Weinstein was “smoke and mirrors” and that the four Jane Does were “untruthful…. fame and fortune seekers.” He then went on to pick apart the testimony of the four other “bad act” witnesses.

“I don’t know how to say it more gentle than this, but fury does not make fact. Tears do not make truth,” Jackson added about the emotional time several of the women had on the stand.

Godbold slammed Weinstein’s lawyers on Thursday for trying to convince the jury “that a woman having the expectation of safety when attending a business meeting—or a young person seeking mentorship—is the aberrant behavior, rather than a powerful man using every trick in the book to lure, groom, confuse, terrify, and attack young women.”

Roberts agreed, noting while the defense tried to argue that these women looked to gain something from a meeting “with a powerful man,” it just did not mean they deserved what they testified happened to them.

“Just like anyone meeting with a power-holder at work, these women wanted to gain a leg up in their industry,” she added. “On what planet is the price for that leg up ‘consensual’ sex? The prosecution has admirably shown, ‘not this one.’”

Dawn Dunning, who testified in Weinstein’s New York trial, previously told The Daily Beast that she believed the jury “can see right through” the defense team’s legal tactics—and that it will ultimately help the prosecution’s case. In New York, where Dunning was a “bad acts witness,” the former actress was also subjected to a harsh cross-examination by Weinstein’s lawyers, who noted that she received a lot of “attention” for her allegations.

“It works to the prosecution’s benefit,” Dunning, who has previously accused Weinstein of putting a hand up her skirt and touching her during a 2004 business meeting, said last month of the defense strategy. “In this day and age, nobody wants to see someone act like that toward a woman. Their tactics are really gross to watch. You never know what a jury will do in a case like this, but I assume that he will be convicted on some counts.”

“This trial matters, and I believe that the jury knows that as well,” she added, before noting that no matter the outcome, “Harvey Weinstein is already a convicted rapist and his power has already been taken away.”

“No matter what, we win.”

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