Harvey Weinstein was found guilty Monday of rape at a Los Angeles trial in another #MeToo moment of reckoning, five years after he became a magnet for the movement.
After deliberating for nine days spanning more than two weeks, the jury of eight men and four women reached the verdict at the second criminal trial of the onetime powerful movie mogul, who is two years into a 23-year sentence for a rape and sexual assault conviction in New York.
Weinstein, 70, was found guilty of rape, forced oral copulation and another sexual misconduct count involving a woman known as Jane Doe 1. The jury was hung on several counts, notably charges involving Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The jury reported it was unable to reach verdicts in her allegations and the allegations of another woman. A mistrial was declared on those counts.
Weinstein was also acquitted of a sexual battery allegation made by another woman.
Weinstein looked down at the table and appeared to put his face in his hands when the initial guilty counts were read. He looked forward as the rest of the verdict was read.
He faces up to 24 years in prison when he is sentenced. Prosecutors and defence attorneys had no immediate comment on the verdict.
“Harvey Weinstein will never be able to rape another woman. He will spend the rest of his life behind bars where he belongs,” Siebel Newsom said in a statement. “Throughout the trial, Weinstein’s lawyers used sexism, misogyny, and bullying tactics to intimidate, demean, and ridicule us survivors. The trial was a stark reminder that we as a society have work to do.”
“It is time for the defendant’s reign of terror to end,” Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez said in the prosecution’s closing argument last week. “It is time for the kingmaker to be brought to justice.”
Lacking any forensic evidence or eyewitness accounts of assaults Weinstein’s accusers said happened from 2005 to 2013, the case hinged heavily on the stories and credibility of the four women at the centre of the charges.
Dramatic moments during trial
The accusers included Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker, whose intense and emotional testimony of being raped by Weinstein in a hotel room in 2005 brought the trial its most dramatic moments.
Another was an Italian model and actor who said Weinstein appeared uninvited at her hotel room during a 2013 film festival and raped her.
Lauren Young, the only accuser to testify at both Weinstein trials, said she was a model and aspiring actor and screenwriter when she met with Weinstein about a script in 2013. She said he trapped her in a hotel bathroom, groped her and masturbated in front of her.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charges involving Young. Jurors told the judge they were 10-2 in favour of conviction on her count, and 8-4 in favour of conviction on the two counts involving Siebel Newsom.
Jurors warned not to see She Said movie
Martinez said in her closing that the women entered Weinstein’s hotel suites or let him into their rooms, with no idea of what awaited them.
“Who would suspect that such an entertainment industry titan would be a degenerate rapist?” she said.
The women’s stories echoed the allegations of dozens of others who have emerged since Weinstein became a lightning rod for #MeToo allegations, starting with stories in the New York Times in 2017.
A movie about that reporting, She Said, was released during the trial, and jurors were repeatedly warned not to see it.
It was the defence that made #MeToo an issue during the trial, however, emphasizing that none of the four women went to the authorities until after the movement made Weinstein a target.
Defence said accusers lied
Defence lawyers said two of the women were entirely lying about their encounters with Weinstein, and that the other two had “100 per cent consensual” sexual interactions that they later reframed.
“Regret is not the same thing as rape,” Weinstein attorney Alan Jackson said in his closing argument.
He urged jurors to look past the the women’s emotional testimony and focus on the factual evidence.
Jackson said jurors were being asked to believe women ” ‘because we’re mad, believe us because we cried.’ ”
“Well, fury does not make fact. And tears do not make truth,” he said.
All the women involved in the charges went by Jane Doe in court. The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly or agree to be named through their attorneys, as the women named here did.
40 witnesses called
Prosecutors called 40 other witnesses in an attempt to give context and corroboration to those stories. Four were other women who were not part of the charges, but who testified that Weinstein raped or sexually assaulted them. They were brought to the stand to establish a pattern of sexual predation.
Weinstein beat four other felony charges before the trial even ended when prosecutors said a woman he was charged with raping twice and sexually assaulting twice would not appear to testify. They declined to give a reason. Judge Lisa Lench dismissed those charges.
Weinstein’s latest conviction hands a victory to victims of sexual misconduct of famous men in the wake of some legal setbacks, including the dismissal of Bill Cosby’s conviction last year.
The rape trial of That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson, held simultaneously and just down the hall from Weinstein’s trial, ended in a mistrial last week. And actor Kevin Spacey was victorious at a sexual battery civil trial in New York last month.
Weinstein’s New York conviction survived an initial appeal, but the case is set to be heard by the state’s highest court next year. The California conviction, also likely to be appealed, means he will not walk free even if the East Coast conviction is thrown out.