“We didn’t have our day but hopefully they will,” actor Rose McGowan told the crowd of Silence Breakers joining her in protest outside the courthouse on Monday 6th January 2020. “And we join hands with them. Their victory will be our victory. Their loss will be our loss.”

 

The New York trial of former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein commenced in the past week and is estimated to last two months. The disgraced director-producer is charged with five sex crime charges. These stem from production assistant Mimi Haleyi’s allegations of forced oral sex in 2006; and by an unnamed woman who accused him of raping her in a hotel room in 2013. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and denies all allegations of nonconsensual sexual encounters. If convicted of these acts, including predatory sexual assault, he will likely face the rest of his life behind bars.

 

Currently, Weinstein remains on bail, although last Tuesday Judge James Burke threatened to revoke his bail over use of a cell phone in court. Defence lawyers have protested Weinstein is not receiving a fair and impartial hearing and filed a motion for the judge to recuse himself. The lawyers have also suggested “inflammatory” and “prejudicial” comments by Burke regarding imprisonment prematurely dictate that Weinstein is guilty. They have attempted to bar Gloria Allred, a high-profile lawyer representing three of the women expected to testify against Weinstein in the trial, on the basis they might wish to call her as a witness. Burke denied the request to interfere with her role. 

 

On Wednesday, 90 of the 120 potential jurors summoned were dismissed for impartiality, following a questionnaire on previous history with domestic violence and physical or sexual assault. Model Gigi Hadid was also dismissed from duty following the defence’s outrage at the media storm surrounding the high-profile case. Seven men and five women have now been selected.

 

During the trial, several witnesses are expected to take the stand including Charlize Theron and Sopranos star Annabella Sciorra. Sciorra has accused Weinstein of violently raping her in her New York apartment in the early 1990s. Though her testimony has been deemed too old for a separate rape charge, prosecutors hope it will cement that Weinstein had a history of sexual misconduct. 

 

Indeed, since 2017, over 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct including Gwyneth Paltrow and Rose McGowan. The 30 plus women who accused Weinstein of sexual harassment in a previous civil case also recently secured a 25 million dollar settlement (covered by Weinstein Company’s insurance); Weinstein is not required to admit his wrongdoing under this settlement. 

 

Hours after his criminal trial started in New York, Los Angeles prosecutors also announced new charges of alleged sexual assault (including forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual battery by restraint and sexual penetration by use of force) against two women in 2013. 

 

Despite Weinstein’s infamy and lack of public support, a conviction for Weinstein is not guaranteed. The second anonymous accuser appears to have had a long relationship with Weinstein which continued after he allegedly raped her in 2013. Her email from February 2017 stated “I love you, always do. But hate feeling like a booty call :)”; the defence will likely focus on this at trial. 

 

Often these types of allegations have no consequences, or they result in a quick flurry of media coverage before vanishing from the public eye almost immediately. However, with over 80 statements made against Weinstein, and due to the high-profile nature of this case, it’s reasonable to believe Weinstein will never work in film again. In this regard, Weinstein has expressed fury and entitlement. He claims he has been a champion of women, giving them opportunities before it was “vogue”, and is enraged that the allegations will leave him “forgotten” in movie history. 

 

Weinstein abused his power to prey on women in the industry and unsurprisingly, ignorance and misogyny are commonplace in the dialogue surrounding the trial. Fox News describes “extreme feminists” ruining civilization, while Weinstein’s current counsel (female) suggests that “women may rue the day that all of this started when no one asks them out on a date”.

 

This criminal trial is arguably the first high-profile case of the #MeToo era – and the results have the potential to set the tone for the future. But, regardless of the results, the impacts of Weinstein’s actions have already had significant consequences, including triggering the MeToo and TimesUp movements. This has paved the way for women across diverse industries to come forward with their own stories of sexual abuse and harrassment and is (despite not-insignificant backlash) shifting the global dialogue and forcing a change in sexual harassment policies and tolerances in workplaces and throughout wider society. 

Harvey Weinstein’s trial continues this week with opening statements commencing on January 22nd

 

 

Photo by Dennis

 

 

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