Weinstein rape trial opens, portraying him as predator
New York — Harvey Weinstein went on trial Wednesday in a landmark moment for the # MeToo movement, with prosecutors painting him as a sexual predator who used his Hollywood clout to abuse women for decades, while his lawyers sought to portray his accusers as willing participants.
Prosecutor Meghan Hast told the jury of seven men and five women that the former studio boss was “not just a titan in Hollywood — he was a rapist” who screamed at one victim that she “owed” him sex, used injections to induce an erection before an assault and pushed his way into the apartment of another woman and attacked her.
“It is for his complete lack of empathy that he must be held accountable,” Hast said.
Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis countered by laying out plans to use friendly-sounding emails, calendar entries and other evidence to call into question the accusers’ accounts of being attacked.
The opening of the rape trial more than two years after a barrage of allegations against Weinstein gave rise to the #MeToo movement was seen by activists as a milestone in the global reckoning over sexual misconduct by powerful men. Weinstein’s lawyers have portrayed the case as the result of a climate of accusation run amok.
Weinstein, 67, has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual. He could get life in prison if convicted.
Scores of women have accused Weinstein of exploiting his position as a career-maker to sexually harass or assault them over the years. But the New York charges center on two allegations: that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on former “Project Runway” production assistant Mimi Haleyi in his apartment in 2006 and raped an aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013.
The rape accuser found a needle in the hotel room bathroom after the alleged assault and realized Weinstein had injected himself to get an erection, Hast said.
Another time, after the woman told him she had a new boyfriend, Weinstein dragged her into a bedroom, “all the while screaming at her that he owed her one more time,” Hast said. “He ripped her jeans off so forcefully that it left scratch marks.”
The prosecutor said Weinstein later told the woman, “I just want to apologize for what happened earlier. I just find you so attractive, I couldn’t resist you.”
In addition to the two women he is charged with attacking, prosecutors plan to call to the stand four other accusers — including actress Annabella Sciorra — in a bid to show a pattern of predatory behavior by Weinstein.
With Sciorra expected to take the stand Thursday, Hast detailed allegations that Weinstein sexually assaulted the “Sopranos” actress around 1993 after giving her a ride home to her Manhattan apartment and forcing his way inside.
Weinstein’s lawyers made clear they intend to go on the offensive.
Cheronis said the 2013 rape accuser sent Weinstein a request that year asking for “time privately” with him and another message letting him know, “I got a new number. I just wanted you to have it. … Always good to hear your voice.”
Cherinos said: “These aren’t our words. They’re hers. It is not a relationship based on fear. You are going to see that.”