Harvey Weinstein’s high-profile sex crimes trial opens on Monday, quite two years after the scandal triggered the #MeToo movement that led to the downfall of dozens of powerful men.
The disgraced movie mogul faces life in prison if convicted of predatory sexual abuse charges by a replacement York state court, in what’s expected to be a six-week trial.
Almost 90 women, including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have accused the 67-year-old of sexual misconduct since The ny Times detailed allegations against him in October 2017.
But Weinstein, once one among Hollywood’s powerful people, is being tried on charges associated with just two women, highlighting the problem of building cases around incidents going back years.
Former production assistant Mimi Haleyi alleges that the “Pulp Fiction” producer forcibly performed head on her in his ny apartment in July 2006.
The second alleged victim is anonymous. She says Weinstein, the co-founder of Miramax Films, raped her during a ny bedroom in March 2013.
The indictment was amended in August to incorporate testimony from “The Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra because the prosecution seeks to convince the jury that Weinstein engaged during a pattern of predatory sexual behavior.
A conviction would signal a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement within the fight against harassment and abuse of power in Hollywood and beyond.
Since the movement emerged from a deluge of allegations against Weinstein, most men felled from their positions, be it within the world of entertainment or business, have escaped prosecution.
The only other trial on the horizon is that of R&B singer R. Kelly, who was charged last year with several assaults on young women, but allegations of sexual impropriety have dogged him for years.
American comedian Bill Cosby was sentenced to a minimum of three years in prison in September 2018, although proceedings had started in late 2015, two years before the post-Weinstein surge of allegations.
“It’s a case which will be covered all (over) the planet ,” lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents Haleyi and Sciorra, told AFP.
Justice James Burke dismissed attempts by the defense to dam Sciorra, who says Weinstein raped her within the winter of 1993-94, from giving evidence as a corroborating witness.
The prosecution will summon three other alleged victims, including one who says she was raped by Weinstein in California in 2013. the opposite two allegations are unknown at this stage.
Weinstein himself is unlikely to testify.
His defense has been trying to undermine the allegations of the 2 accusers on the blotter since long before the beginning of the trial.
They have produced emails and text messages which they assert show that both remained in friendly contact with the accused for several months after the alleged events.
Known for his impatience and irascibility , Weinstein changed lawyers several times before deciding on Donna Rotunno, a Chicago attorney who has successfully defended dozens of men accused of sexual abuse and harassment.
She has said that her client are going to be exonerated.
Weinstein has always maintained that his sexual relationships were consensual but has apologized for behavior that he concedes “has caused tons of pain.”
He sparked an outcry just weeks before the trial by appearing indignant in an interview with the ny Post tabloid when he moaned that he should be recognized for “pioneering” women-led films.
“The jurors and therefore the judge are alleged to ignore this. But we all know alright that it’s impossible,” Joseph Cabosky, a strategic communications professor at the University of North Carolina, told AFP.