Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Thursday in the trial of disgraced Hollywood mogul and accused sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. The jury is expected to begin deliberating on Tuesday. Weinstein faces five felonies based on accusations by two women and, if convicted, could face up to life in prison. The trial comes more than two years after initial accusations against the film producer were published in The New Yorker and The New York Times, fueling the #MeToo movement that swept Hollywood and beyond. Since then, over 100 women have accused Weinstein of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. During the trial, six women told the jury in graphic detail about how Weinstein had sexually assaulted them. Weinstein did not testify, but his lawyers described the sexual encounters as consensual and repeatedly attempted to discredit the claims of the women. While the trial centers on the accusations of two women, many other women who say they were victimized by Weinstein have attended the trial. For more, we speak with J. Clara Chan, media and politics reporter at The Wrap, where she’s been covering the Weinstein trial extensively.
AMY GOODMAN: Closing arguments are scheduled to begin today in the trial of accused sexual predator, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The jury is expected to begin deliberations on Tuesday. Weinstein faces five felonies, including rape and predatory sexual assault, based on accusations by two women. If convicted, he faces life in prison. The trial comes more than two years after initial accusations against the film producer were published in The New Yorker and The New York Times, sparking the #MeToo movement that swept Hollywood and beyond. Since then, more than 100 women have accused Weinstein of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Weinstein has also been charged with rape in Los Angeles County.
During the trial, six women told the jury, in graphic detail, about how Weinstein had sexually assaulted them. Weinstein did not testify, but his lawyers described the sexual encounters as consensual. His legal team repeatedly attempted to discredit the claims of the women. Last week, one of his accusers, Jessica Mann, broke down and went into an apparent panic attack during questioning from Weinstein’s lawyers, forcing the judge to adjourn proceedings for the day. Jessica Mann was made to read past emails to a boyfriend, in which she disclosed she had been sexually assaulted before meeting Weinstein. She accuses Weinstein of raping her in New York and Los Angeles and said she had an “extremely degrading” relationship with him.
While the trial centers on the accusations of two women, many other women who were victimized by Weinstein have attended the trial. In early January, the actor Rosanna Arquette spoke outside the courthouse.
ROSANNA ARQUETTE: As we stand here at the beginning of a new year and a new decade, time’s up. Time’s up on sexual harassment in all workplaces. Time’s up on blaming survivors. Time’s up on empty apologies without consequences. And time’s up on the pervasive culture of silence that has enabled abusers like Weinstein.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by two guests. Here in New York, J. Clara Chan is with us, media and politics reporter at The Wrap, where she’s been covering the Weinstein trial every day. And joining us in Los Angeles is Louise Godbold, executive director of Echo, which provides training to trauma survivors and those who support them. The group is hosting a conference for trauma survivors, including Weinstein survivors, next month called “And Still We Rise.” Godbold wrote a blog post titled “My Encounter with Harvey Weinstein and What It Tells Us About Trauma.”
We’re going to start, though, with you, Clara. You’ve been in the trial every day.
J. CLARA CHAN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: If you can talk about the significance of this, and exactly what he’s being accused of?
J. CLARA CHAN: Sure. I mean, already, as you mentioned earlier, this is two years after the initial articles came out in The New Yorker and The New York Times. And already, for so many cases of sexual assault and rape, it’s very rare for them to even make it to the trial stage, so that, in and of itself, is pretty historic. And then, of course, this is Harvey Weinstein. He’s become sort of the figurehead of part of the anti — or, the #MeToo movement. So, already, that is pretty significant, as a reporter myself sitting in the courtroom to see. As you were mentioning earlier, there are five felony counts against him, so that includes predatory sexual assault, first- and third-degree rape and a forcible sexual act.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, six women have testified, but this case particularly centers around two women.
J. CLARA CHAN: Yes. That’s correct.
AMY GOODMAN: So explain that.
J. CLARA CHAN: Sure. So, the two women are Jessica Mann and Miriam Haley. One was — Jessica was a former aspiring actress at the time that she met Harvey Weinstein, and Miriam Haley was then a production assistant. So, essentially, even though the jury has heard testimonies from a total of six women, the accounts of Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann form the basis of the charges against Weinstein. So, whether or not a jury finds the other women, quote-unquote, “credible” or “believable” remains to be seen, but the charges are sort of specifically on their accusations. And interestingly enough, Annabella Sciorra, who was one of the first women to testify, although her accusations fall outside of the statute of limitations, her account is sort of being used by the prosecution to bolster the predatory sexual assault charge.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s go to the testimony of Jessica Mann. Explain what happened in court.
J. CLARA CHAN: I think her testimony was one of the most — it included some of the most violent accusations against Weinstein. You know, again, the one that he is being charged for in New York is that she has accused him of rape in a New York hotel. But for both of those accounts, she offered details that, in many cases, were different from some of the other women in the sort of violence that she’s alleging that he used against her. So, some of that included, you know, not letting her leave the room, slamming the door, is what she said, you know, taking her hand and forcing her to undress, using an injection in his penis and not using protection when having sex with her. These are all the things that she’s alleged in her testimony. And so, also, interestingly enough, compared to the other women who have come forward, her testimony and cross-examination was one of the longest. It spanned over three days, I believe. And cross-examination took two days. The first day, as you were mentioning, had to be cut short early because she told prosecutors she was having a panic attack on the stand. So, it was one of the most emotional, I think, to witness from the audience.
AMY GOODMAN: And Miriam, the other woman in the case?
J. CLARA CHAN: Yes. So, she was a production assistant. She grew up in Stockholm. And basically, she had been an assistant on Project Runway, which is a Weinstein Company-produced production. And her accusation is essentially that, you know, she had been invited to meet up with Weinstein in his SoHo apartment. They seemed to be having a normal conversation at first. And then she has alleged that he sort of lunged at her, backed her into a bedroom and then eventually orally sexually assaulted her.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn right now to what happened Tuesday, Weinstein’s attorneys resting their case and saying their client will not testify in his own defense at his trial.
ARTHUR AIDALA: Well, Mr. Weinstein has been a very good client, so we didn’t have to restrain him. But he was ready, willing and able and anxious to testify to clear his name, to clear the facts of this case. But Mr. Cheronis and Ms. Rotunno, joined with the rest of the New York team, advised him that he did not need to do that, because the evidence presented in this case was anemic at best. If his name was not Harvey Weinstein and it was John Doe, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office would have never brought these charges. The prosecutor has failed miserably to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Weinstein defense attorney Arthur Aidala. Talk about the approach of the defense in dealing with these women and the case, and specifically what it means for Harvey Weinstein not to testify in his own defense.
J. CLARA CHAN: Sure. So, since day one, the defense has come towards this case saying all of these interactions or incidents were consensual. And what they’ve been trying to prove, through cross-examination and also with their own witnesses that they called when it was their time to present a case, was that, you know, at the time, these women had consensual relationships with Weinstein, but now, X years later, they are somehow relabeling the situation or imagining the situation. And to make this argument, the defense has pointed to a number of emails between the accusers and Weinstein that appear friendly, that, you know, after the alleged incidents happened, still shows them reaching out and trying to contact Weinstein.
Now, the prosecution, on the other hand, has tried to, again, rebut sort of this argument that they were consensual, by bringing on an expert witness, Dr. Barbara Ziv, who actually testified in the Bill Cosby trial, as well. And she was going through the logic of, you know, actually it’s a rather common response for survivors of sexual assault to want to stay in touch with their alleged abusers. It’s not uncommon for them to send friendly messages, to even have consensual sexual relationships with them after. So, it’s this kind of juxtaposed dynamic between how the two teams are trying to portray these incidents, that, at the end of the day, we’ll see which side the jury ultimately sides with.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, last month, the group Silence Breakers held a news conference outside the Manhattan courthouse ahead of Harvey Weinstein’s trial. The group represents more than 90 women who came forward to report Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. This is actress Rose McGowan.
ROSE McGOWAN: Dear Harvey, no matter what lies you tell yourself, you did this. Today Lady Justice is staring down a superpredator: you. You brought this upon yourself by hurting so many. You have only yourself to blame. I came here today to see this through. I came here today to stand side by side with these other women who you also harmed, and to be a voice for the voiceless, like I was for so long. You thought you could terrorize me and others into silence. You were wrong. We rose from your ashes. We rise together.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s actress Rose McGowan.