Harvey Weinstein’s defense told the jury that there is absolutely no evidence against their client and that every woman who will testify in his trial is an actress who will be playing a role on the stand — all to fit the narrative of #MeToo, which they characterized as an “asteroid” of a movement that “burst forth like a supernova” with Weinstein as the poster child.
Weinstein’s attorney Mark Werksman told jurors that they should prepare to hear a “firehose of false and unprovable allegations” from women who agreed to have consensual sexual interactions with Weinstein, but years later, are now embarrassed and lying about what really happened.
“Look at my client,” Werksman said, pointing to Weinstein. “He’s not Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Do you think these beautiful women had sex with him because he’s hot? No, it’s because he’s powerful.”
Weinstein’s attorney told the jury that Hollywood has changed today, but back in the day, “transactional sex” was par for the course. “Sex was a commodity” for “rich and powerful men, like my client,” Weinstein’s attorney said, even getting his own nickname: the casting couch.
“Transactional sex … it may have been unpleasant … and now embarrassing,” Werksman said. “[But] everyone did it. He did it. They did it.”
Weinstein’s attorney said the #MeToo movement is like a movie that turned Weinstein into “Hollywood’s Chernobyl,” casting him in the “smoldering radioactive” part of the “bad guy.”
And the women? “The sequel to the casting couch is the #MeToo trial,” Weinstein’s defense said. “They will play the part of the damsel in distress with this beast.”
“They have to lie to themselves, to you, to this court,” Werksman told the jury. “Their hypocrisy will be on full display.”
Earlier in the day, the prosecution painted a starkly different picture of Weinstein, telling the jury that the former Hollywood producer and already-convicted rapist was a serial predator who used business meetings as a cover to sexually assault women over decades. The deputy DA’s explained to jurors that Weinstein’s power enabled him to take advantage of aspiring hopefuls in the entertainment industry by assaulting and harassing them, which made them fearful of Weinstein’s retaliation. During the prosecutor’s opening statement, quotes from women who will testify in the trial were presented to the jury, sharing their allegations of forcible oral sex, groping, fondling and rape.
When the defense faced the jury, they urged the jury to use their “common sense” and realize that there is no forensic evidence, such as a police report, rape kit, DNA, semen sample or surveillance video of any criminal activity to back up the women’s charges. “Each will boil down to ‘believe me,’” Weinstein’s attorney said of the victims. “If an accuser waits years, the allegation boils down to her word.” (The prosecution plans to bring in a forensic psychiatrist to serve as an expert witness to educate the jury on “rape myths,” which could explain some of these behaviors described by Weinstein’s defense.)
Werksman shared a side of Weinstein that the DA did not, and instead of focusing on his power in Hollywood, his attorney re-focused on Weinstein’s humble beginnings, telling the jury he was not born with a “silver spoon” in his mouth. He worked hard to create success for himself, his attorney said, urging the jurors not to get distracted by the stories of private jets and celebrity parties. “With tremendous fame and fortune came fame of fortune seekers,” his attorney said, categorizing the women as having “consensual sex with Mr. Weinstein because they wanted to exploit their connection with Mr. Weinstein” and having “sex in exchange for something with value.”
Weinstein’s attorney spent much of his time during opening statements focusing on Jane Doe #4, who was revealed to be Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the actress and director who is married to California Governor Gavin Newsom, who accused Weinstein of raping her in a hotel room in 2005. She has become a leading voice against sexual harassment and assault in recent years.
“She’s made herself a prominent figure of the #MeToo movement,” Werksman said, listing her current accolades and status as the First Partner of California. But back in the early 2000s when Siebel Newsom was an aspiring actress and filmmaker, Weinstein’s attorney says she was a “Hollywood wannabe.”
Werksman told the jury that during the alleged rape in 2005, Siebel Newsom says she faked an orgasm to end the assault quickly. Weinstein’s attorney said there is no more “enthusiastic signal of consent” than “yes, yes, yes” — which is why, he said, “Mr. Weinstein believed she consented.”
Weinstein’s attorney also noted that Weinstein was a big donor to the Democratic Party, and contributed money to Gavin Newsom throughout the years. He noted that in 2007, Weinstein had the couple as guests to one of his parties, during the time when Newsom was the mayor of San Francisco. “She brought her husband to meet and party with her rapist. Who does that?” Werksman said. “He took money from his wife’s rapist for his political campaigns.”
Werksman said if Siebel Newsom didn’t have her current place in politics today, “She’d be just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead.”