Harvey Weinstein used his close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton to ‘intimidate’ his victims into doing what he told them, a court heard Wednesday.
The once-powerful Hollywood producer, 67, would call the former president, 73, while he was in front of at least one of his accusers and talked to him ‘every other day’, Weinstein’s rape and sexual assault trial was told.
The first witness in the case, Lance Maerov, said Weinstein ‘made no secret of the fact he was connected to very powerful people’, in particular the Clintons. Maerov, a former director at The Weinstein Co, Weinstein’s film company, added: ‘He’d tell me (about them).’
Prosecutors also showed the jury a picture of Weinstein posing with Clinton during his presidency. Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Joan Iluzi, Maerov said that Weinstein ‘made a point of telling me on a number of occasions’ about his relationships with politicians.
Both legal teams kicked off their opening statements to a jury of seven men and five women on Wednesday, with the once-powerful Hollywood producer facing life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors described Weinstein as a ‘savvy sexual predator’ in a trial that has become a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement. They said he is a rapist who screamed at one victim that she ‘owed’ him sex and pushed his way into the apartment of another woman and attacked her.
But Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein’s defense attorneys, hit back, citing messages he shared with his accusers, including aspiring actress Jessica Mann, who was named by prosecutors for the first time. Cheronis said Mann called Weinstein her casual boyfriend, telling him: ‘I love you but I hate feeling like a booty call.’
Though dozens of women have accused Weinstein of sexually harassing or assaulting them over the years, his New York trial involves allegations from two women – Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi. She has already publicly said that he forced oral sex on her in his Manhattan home in 2006.
Weinstein, 67, who reshaped the independent film industry with critically acclaimed pictures such as ‘The English Patient’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ has pleaded not guilty and said any sexual encounters were consensual.
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Harvey Weinstein departs his sexual assault trial at New York Criminal Court on Wednesday. The once-powerful Hollywood producer, 67, would call the former president, 73, while he was in front of at least one of his accusers and talked to him ‘every other day’, Weinstein’s rape and sexual assault trial was told
Weinstein, right, arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial on Wednesday. He didn’t use his walker to head into the court room
Weinstein was all smiles as he arrived into the court on Wednesday. He told reporters he felt ‘better’ after his back surgery
Weinstein, left, and Bill Clinton, right, pictured in 2006. Weinstein used his close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton to ‘intimidate’ his victims into doing what he told them, a court heard Wednesday
Maerov said: ‘Harvey made no secret of the fact he was connected to very powerful people’. Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi then asked if this meant presidents and former presidents, Mr Maerov answered: ‘Yes’.
Illuzi then asked: ‘Was Mr Weinstein particularly close with the Clintons?’ Maerov said: ‘Yes, he’d tell me (about them)’. ‘He often referred to his close relationships with Presidents and former Presidents?’, lluzi asked. Maerov replied: ‘Yes’.
Maerov agreed that Weinstein was ‘very loud’ and could be very different when he was alone with somebody. He added: ‘His public persona was diametrically opposite to who he was in private.’
Showing the court pictures of Weinstein with Clinton and on red carpets, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast added: ‘At the end of this trial, the evidence will be clear, that the man seated right there was not just a titan in Hollywood, but a rapist.
‘[He used] his power and prestige in the entertainment industry to ensure [accusers’] silence. Although they’re strangers to one another, they’ll each describe to you their shame and humiliation following their violent encounters with the defendant.’
Illuzi said that a number of the women would testify that Weinstein would intimidate them by making sure they knew ‘how close he was to Bill Clinton’. She said that Weinstein ‘took phone calls from Bill Clinton while he was with’ one alleged victim.
Illuzi said that a ‘person from a dairy farm in Seattle would find it intimidating because this person (Weinstein) was on the phone with Bill Clinton every other day’.
Hillary Clinton, left, and Weinstein, right, pictured in 2012. Both legal teams kicked off their opening statements to a jury of seven men and five women on Wednesday, with the once-powerful Hollywood producer facing life in prison if convicted
Prosecutors described Weinstein as a ‘savvy sexual predator’ in a trial that has become a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement. They said he is a rapist who screamed at one victim that she ‘owed’ him sex and pushed his way into the apartment of another woman and attacked her. Bill Clinton chats with Weinstein in 2000, left. Hillary with Weinstein in 2004 is right
Weinstein ‘injected erection drug before 2013 rape’
Prosecutor Hast earlier 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’.
She said the producer 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 assaulted her.
THE WEINSTEIN JURY
18 people must be selected to make up the jury of 12 and six alternates.
The 12 jurors includes;
6 white men
1 black man
2 black women
1 Latino woman
2 white women
But 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.
After the jury had filed out for the day Weinstein’s defence attorney Arthur Aidala called for a mistrial because of the Bill Clinton image the prosecution had shown the jury. He said it was wrong because Donald Trump was currently being impeached and the last President to impeached was Bill Clinton.
‘The jury can’t read about this case but they can read about impeachment. Using a photo of Bill Clinton brought back that time in history’, Aidala said.
He said that nobody mentioned that one of President Obama’s daughters did an internship with Weinstein’s film company.
Aidala also objected to Weinstein being called a ‘predatory monster, predatory and disgusting’ during the prosecution opening.
Judge James Burke denied the motion for a mistrial.
Harvey Weinstein, center, leaves court following opening statements in his trial Wednesday
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and and said any sexual encounters were consensual
Weinstein’s victim called him her ‘casual boyfriend’ and texted him ‘I love you’
One accuser is Jessica Mann, named for the first time in court on Wednesday and who claims Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013. She says she found out he injected himself to get an erection after finding a needle ‘for an erectile-dysfunction drug’ in the trash.
The second allegation involves former production assistant Mimi Haleyi. She has already publicly said that he forced oral sex on her in his Manhattan home in 2006.
Weinstein, 67, has denied first-degree rape, two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of first-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree rape.
His trial began on January 6, with jury selection taking two weeks, and could last roughly six more. He had arrived at court everyday using his walker complete with tennis balls – a necessity, his team said, following back surgery. On Wednesday he managed to walk into court without the device, aided by members of his team.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast told the court: ‘During this trial, you’re going to learn that the defendant was a savvy, powerful Hollywood producer but the evidence both from the witness stand and evidence will show that that man was a sexual predator and a rapist.
‘Over the course of the testimony, you will come to see that the man seated on that side of the court room, despite what your eyes are looking at, is not a harmless old man.’
Weinstein attorney Cheronis told the court Mann sent emails to Weinstein asking to introduce him to her mother after the alleged attack. She also gave him her new number when she lost her phone, he said. Of her diary entries calling Weinstein her casual boyfriend Cheronis told the court: ‘You can lie to the state, you can lie to anybody, but you can’t lie to yourself.’
Weinstein left with the aid of his walker after a court heard the opening statements in his rape and sexual assault trial
Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast points at Harvey Weinstein during his sexual assault trial as accuser Mimi Haleyi appears on the screen and Judge James Burke presides at New York Criminal Court on Wednesday
In his opening statement defense attorney Damon Cheronis, pictured left, said: ‘This is Harvey Weinstein right here. He’s a person who has just been called a rapist, a manipulator and a trickster. This stops now.’ Weinstein was all smiles as he entered the court this morning, ahead of opening statements in his landmark rape trial, right
Court hears graphic detail at the ‘predatory monster’s’ trial
In July 2006 Weinstein is said to have brought former production assistant Mimi Haleyi to his loft apartment. A friendly conversation ended abruptly and Weinstein attacked her and forcibly performed oral sex on her, yanking out her tampon, according to Hast.
But in his opening statement defense attorney Damon Cheronis said: ‘This is Harvey Weinstein right here. He’s a person who has just been called a rapist, a manipulator and a trickster. This stops now’.
Cheronis said that the theory outlined by the prosecution was a ‘seductive one’ but it was simply not true, asking the jury: ‘Is it possible these women could have been attracted to Harvey Weinstein?’
Miss Haleyi did not remember much about the 2006 incident when she was first asked about it, Cheronis said. The second time she said they had sex but it was ‘not forced’ and later her story changed again.
He added: ‘Pay very close attention to how the story changes and it always changes to hurt Harvey’.
Cheronis said that Miss Haleyi maintained friendly email contact with Weinstein for years after she claims she was attacked. In 2009 she emailed him, saying ‘I haven’t seen you in so long’ and asked him for a job.
Cheronis said: ‘This is not going to be this predator prey dynamic that the state wants you to believe’.
He added that the prosecution would seek to perform a ‘magic trick’ that the women were ‘fearful’ of Weinstein but that was just not true
Cheronis said that second accuser Miss Mann also sent emails to Weinstein asking to introduce him to her mother after the supposed attack. She also gave him her new number when she lost her phone, he said.
Weinstein has denied first-degree rape, two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of first-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree rape. His trial began on January 6, with jury selection taking two weeks, and could last six more
Lawyer Damon Cheronis stands near his client film producer Harvey Weinstein during his sexual assault trial on Wednesday
Defense calls Weinstein’s relationship with one accuser ‘loving’
The defense attorney said that the prosecution’s claims about their relationship will be ‘so far from the truth you are going to ask yourself what’s happening’.
‘The emails were so crucial because they are the way we can show you what this relationship was. It’s not a relationship that was built on fear or weakness’, Cheronis said, adding: ‘We will show you the truth of what happened in 2013 and that truth has changed.’
Over the course of the testimony, you will come to see that the man seated on that side of the court room, despite what your eyes are looking at, is not a harmless old man.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast
Cheronis said: ‘You’re going to see, get ready for it, an actual loving relationship between Harvey Weinstein and Jessica Mann and when you see it you’re going to ask what is going on? Is this man guilty beyond a reasonable doubt’. He said that Miss Mann kept notes about her relationship with Weinstein in her phone which he said was effectively a personal diary – and in it she called him her ‘casual boyfriend’.
In September 2014 Miss Mann sent Weinstein a text saying she had broken up with her boyfriend saying she was ‘hoping for dinner with you’, he told the court.
On February 28 2017 he said she messaged him again, telling Weinstein: ‘I love you, I always do, but I hate feeling like a booty call.’
Cheronis said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, that’s not how you talk to a predator…you’re going to be confronted with two realities, the one they said to you today and the one we’re presenting you in real time and you will have to determine what was the truth’.
Hast gave the jury a detailed, graphic description of how each alleged assault is said to have unfolded. He often offered the women acting roles, the court heard, allegedly telling one: ‘This is how the industry works. How do you think other actresses got ahead.’
During the prosecution’s opening statements, Weinstein sat quietly at the defense table, occasionally sipping water from a clear plastic cup or writing on a legal pad.
‘This is how the industry works. How do you think other actresses got ahead?
What Weinstein allegedly told one accuser, Dawn Dunning
‘Although they’re strangers to one another, they’ll each describe to you their shame and humiliation following their violent encounters with the defendant.’
The court also heard the producer had a vast ‘desire for conquest’ and treated his victims like ‘pawns’ who he could abuse for his sexual gratification.
One alleged rape was so violent it left scratch marks on a victim’s thighs, the court was told. Afterwards Weinstein allegedly told the woman: ‘I just find you so attractive I couldn’t resist you.’
A Weinstein aide carried his walker into court as the producer was helped by his defense team following back surgery
Accuser ‘felt trapped and was dying inside’, prosecutors claim
Prosecutor Hast said Mann: ‘Over the next few months years, she continued to see him. You will learn that Jessica Mann felt trapped. She felt that there was no way to get out without suffering — her friends, her career, or worse, physical harm. She could do this, she thought. Maybe he really did think she was talented. Maybe I can just grin and bear it.
‘He became more demanding and violent, more violent and disgusting, so disgusting. Jessica Mann tried to put on a brave face, pretending to the world that nothing was wrong. All the while, you will learn, she was dying inside.’
Of second accuser Haleyi, Hast said: ‘She thought when she went that she could somehow take the power back, but she was dealing with a sexual predator. She left feeling ashamed, stupid and worthless.’
‘You can lie to the state, you can lie to anybody, but you can’t lie to yourself.’
Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein’s defense attorneys on alleged victim Jessica Mann’s diary entries
Hast went on to describe him screaming at one victim that she ‘owed’ him sex and pushing his way into the apartment of another woman, actress Annabella Sciorra, and assaulting her.
In addition to the two women he is charged with attacking, prosecutors plan to call to the stand four other accusers – including Sciorra, Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff and Lauren Young — in a bid to portray Weinstein as a monster who lured women with offers of career help, then forced himself on them.
‘They will each describe their fear, their shame and their humiliation — the struggle each went through to push their trauma down and show a brave face to the world,’ Hast said.
But Cheronis said that they would be calling a very good friend of Sciorra’s who told them that she had done a ‘crazy thing’ and had consensual sex with Weinstein.
The silence breakers, 27 women who came forward to report Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, said in a statement Wednesday that they ‘stand in solidarity’ with ‘all of the women who will courageously testify against’ him.
Hast detailed allegations that ‘close to 300lbs’ Weinstein sexually assaulted ‘110 pound Sciorra’ around 1993 after giving the Sopranos actress a ride home to her Manhattan apartment and forcing his way inside.
‘She told him to get out. She told him no. But Harvey Weinstein was undeterred,’ Hast said. She said the actress eventually stopped fighting Weinstein, ‘hoping it would end,’ and was left ’emotionally and physically destroyed, passed out on the floor.’
But Weinstein attorney Damon Cheronis rebuked those claims, telling the jury: ‘What we just heard from Hast was truly a narrative that was spun to explain things that were inexplicable. What you’re going to see is going to be shocking based on opening statements and what you’ve just heard.
‘What Hast just told you doesn’t hold water. It’s not true. What we’ve waiting patiently to tell you the truth in this case. We’ve been waiting patiently as we’ve heard the word ‘predator’ used. This is the time where we get to tell you what happened.’
Harvey hobbled into court without the aide of his walker
On Wednesday Wesintein was supported by his defense team as he made his way into the court without his walker. An aide carried the device as Weinstein hobbled into court, held up by an associate. Page Six reports he told one lawyer, Arthur Aidala, ‘you’re going too fast’.
He was all smiles as he entered the court room in a black suit and shoes with no socks and told reporters he was feeling better. Asked whether he believed he would have a fair trial, he said: ‘Of course. I have good lawyers.’
Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, fueling the #MeToo movement in which women have gone public with allegations against powerful men in business, entertainment and politics.
Justice James Burke told potential jurors last week that they must decide Weinstein’s case based on the evidence and not make the trial ‘a referendum on the #MeToo movement.’
Burke denied a request on Tuesday to move the trial out of the media glare of New York City to the suburban county of Suffolk or the state capital Albany. The defense team sought a new venue partly because sidewalk protests against Weinstein could be heard in the court.
‘While I could not make out every word of what was being chanted, I clearly heard the word ‘rapist’,’ said a court filing by Weinstein lawyer Diana Fabi Samson, describing the protests that she heard from inside the court during jury selection.
Wesintein rests a hand on his walker before making a decision to make the journey into court unaided
Weinstein rests on a member of his defense team’s arm for support after choosing to not use his walker on Wednesday
Weinstien’s lead attorney Donna Rotunno stands to the left of the producer as they arrive at court on Wednesday
Weinstein, 67, who reshaped the independent film industry with critically acclaimed pictures such as ‘The English Patient’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ has pleaded not guilty and and said any sexual encounters were consensual
Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, left, and Weinstein’s lead attorney Donna Rotunno, right, both arrives at New York Criminal Court for film producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial on Wednesday
Attorney Gloria Allred, center, arrives at New York Criminal Court. Allred represents former production assistant Mimi Haleyi
Members of the media wait to enter the courtroom ahead of the arrival of Weinstein at New York Criminal Court Wednesday
The case in Los Angeles
Prosecutors last week accused Weinstein’s legal team of trying to exclude white women from the jury, which is comprised of six white men, three black women, one black man and two white women. Weinstein’s lawyers countered that their goal was to select a fair jury, citing specific reasons for excluding the women.
The state needs a unanimous jury to convict. A single hold-out would produce a hung jury, although that would not prevent prosecutors from trying Weinstein again.
Regardless of the outcome, Weinstein faces additional charges in California.
Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced on Jan. 6 that Weinstein had been charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in 2013.
He is also facing civil lawsuits. While lawyers representing at least 28 women have agreed to a proposed $25 million settlement of those civil claims, a lawyer for one woman has criticized the deal as unfair.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE BIGGEST TRIAL OF THE #METOO ERA – THE CHARGES AGAINST WEINSTEIN
Opening statements begin on Wednesday in the rape trial in New York of Harvey Weinstein, once one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and criminal sexual assault.
Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting production assistant Mimi Haleyi, pictured, in 2006 and raping another woman in 2013
Who are the accusers?
More than 80 women have publicly accused Weinstein, 67, of sexual misconduct, helping to fuel the #MeToo movement over the last two years. The criminal charges against him refer to just three accusers.
Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant on a Weinstein Company television show, has said that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in his Manhattan home in July 2006.
Actress Annabella Sciorra, best known for her role on HBO’s ‘The Sopranos,’ has said Weinstein raped her in her Manhattan apartment in 1993.
Prosecutors have accused Weinstein of raping another woman in March 2013 in Manhattan. She was named as aspiring actress Jessica Mann for the first time in court on January 22.
Weinstein has said that any sexual encounters he had were consensual.
What are the charges?
Weinstein is charged with a criminal sexual act in the first degree against Haleyi, and with rape for the 2013 allegation against Mann. He is charged with predatory sexual assault over both allegations.
Sciorra’s allegation is too old to be the basis of a separate charge, but is a crucial part of the predatory sexual assault charges, which require prosecutors to establish a pattern of serious sex crimes against multiple women.
Predatory sexual assault is the most serious charge against Weinstein, carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Who will testify against Weinstein?
Haleyi, Sciorra and Mann are almost certain to testify in a trial that could last until early March.
Prosecutors may also call three other women to testify about encounters with Weinstein, even though he is not formally charged with crimes against them. Their testimony is intended to bolster the charges by showing that Weinstein had a consistent pattern of behaviour.
Prosecutors have also said that they expect to call Barbara Ziv, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, to testify as an expert on the trauma resulting from sexual assault.
The Hollywood mogul climbed up the stairs as he arrived at a Manhattan courthouse on January 8
What is Weinstein’s defense?
Weinstein’s lead lawyer, Donna Rotunno, told Reuters that Weinstein had a ‘slew of witnesses ready to go.’ She has said the defense would be introducing emails and text messages to prove that Weinstein’s accusers maintained relationships with him after his alleged assaults.
His lawyers have also said they plan to call psychologist Deborah Davis of the University of Nevada, Reno, to testify as an expert on memory, suggesting that Weinstein may try to call his accusers’ recollections into question.
What other legal risks does Weinstein face?
Even if he is acquitted in Manhattan, Weinstein faces separate criminal charges announced on Jan. 6 by prosecutors in Los Angeles. Lawyer Rotunno declined to make an immediate comment on those charges.
Weinstein was charged with sexually assaulting two unidentified women in 2013, said Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey. He was charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting the other.
Reporting by Reuters