Harvey Weinstein in court for long-awaited criminal trial

Jury selection begins in disgraced producer's trial more than two years after sexual assault reports served as catalyst for #MeToo movement

Clémence Michallon
New York
,Alex Woodward
Monday 06 January 2020 10:11 GMT
Weinstein's celebrity accusers hold a rally outside court

Harvey Weinstein, the former Hollywood producer whose alleged pattern of abuse sparked the #MeToo Movement, has appeared in a New York courtroom to face sexual assault charges that could see him jailed for up to 25 years.

He faces criminal charges stemming from two different allegations: one that he raped a woman in 2013 in a New York hotel room, and another that he performed a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.

In the first case, he has been charged with predatory sexual assault, rape in the first degree and rape in the third degree. The alleged victim has not been publicly identified.

The second charge is of predatory sexual assault and performing a criminal sexual act in the first degree, relating to an alleged assault on another woman, Mimi Haleyi, at his New York apartment in 2006.

The 67-year-old has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

More than 80 women have accused the once-powerful producer of sexual assault following bombshell reporting that galvanised the #MeToo movement, powered by women's stories to hold men accountable for sexual assault, harassment and abuse.

The criminal trial begins more than two years after Pulitzer-winning investigative reports in The New Yorker and The New York Times exposed three decades of abuse and Hollywood's culture of coercion and exploitation.

It was eerily quiet as Mr Weinstein made his way up the stairs into the New York State Supreme Court, again using a walking frame as he had at a previous bail hearing.

Protesters and women’s rights advocates gathered outside the building on Manhattan’s Centre Street, but there was little sound — no booing, no slogans as the former producer stepped out of his vehicle and up the steps with the aid of a walker.

Actor Rosanna Arquette, who’s expected to testify during the trial, waved a group of protestors over to huddle before his arrival.

Protesters outside the trial of Harvey Weinstein in New York

At a press conference outside the court, Ms Arquette said: "We aren't going anywhere ... Time's up on sexual harassment in all workplaces, time's up on blaming survivors, time's up on empty apologies without consequence,s and time's up on the pervasive culture of silence that has enabled abusers like Weinstein."

Jury selection in his criminal trial is expected to take up to two weeks, followed by an eight-week trial, presided over by Judge James Burke.

State prosecutors must prove Mr Weinstein has a history of sex crimes against multiple victims to land the predatory sexual assault charges, though prosecutors have not yet revealed evidence or a list of witnesses expected to testify at trial.

But court documents reveal that several key witnesses will testify to Mr Weinstein's "prior bad acts" to illustrate the depth of the producer's alleged abuse history.

Those witnesses include The Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, who has accused Mr Weinstein of assaulting her in the early 1990s. Judge Burke had previously determined that those charges fall outside the statute of limitations, though prosecutors could rely on her testimony to point to Mr Weinstein's pattern of abuse.

Last month, Mr Weinstein and the board of his now-bankrupt studio reportedly had tentatively reached a $25m global settlement with dozens of his alleged victims, though the settlement does not include any admission of wrongdoing. The payout is part of a $47m settlement that closes out the company's financial obligations.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles District Attorney is weighing several potential cases against Mr Weinstein, and the Metropolitan Police in London also have received a dozen assault allegations.

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