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Harvey Weinstein guilty of Hollywood rape, jury finds

Harvey Weinstein
Source: Video Screenshot

Disgraced US movie titan Harvey Weinstein was convicted Monday of the rape and sexual assault of a woman a decade ago, in what prosecutors said was part of his “reign of terror” over aspiring young actresses in Hollywood.

The 70-year-old Pulp Fiction producer, who was once one of the most powerful men in the film industry, faces up to 24 years in jail, in addition to a sentence he is already serving for sex crimes in New York.

His victim in the Los Angeles case said Monday she hopes he “never sees the outside of a prison cell during his lifetime”.

“Harvey Weinstein forever destroyed a part of me that night in 2013 and I will never get that back,” the woman, identified during the trial as Jane Doe #1, said in a statement.

A weeks-long trial heard graphic descriptions of encounters between the once-powerful producer and women who were trying to make their way in the world of movies.

Prosecutors painted a picture of a predatory ogre, who for years used his physical size and his professional prowess to rape and abuse women with impunity.

His victims were left terrorised and afraid for their careers if they spoke out against a man who dominated Tinseltown, prosecutors said.

Rumors of Weinstein’s impropriety had circulated in Hollywood for years, but his position at the apex of the industry meant few were prepared to challenge him.

That all changed in 2017 with the publication of bombshell allegations against him, ushering in the #MeToo movement and opening the floodgates for women to speak out against sexual violence in the workplace.

Dozens of women have since alleged they were victims of Weinstein.

His convictions in New York, which landed him with a 23-year jail term, were followed by charges in Los Angeles, ultimately relating to four women.

On Monday after two weeks of deliberation, a jury convicted him of three of the seven counts he faced – forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by a foreign object – all relating to Jane Doe #1 in a Beverly Hills hotel room in February 2013.

The eight men and four women on the panel acquitted him of one charge of sexual battery by restraint involving another woman.

They did not reach a verdict on charges relating to the alleged assaults of two other women, one of whom was identified by her lawyers as Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench declared a mistrial on those counts.

Weinstein faces up to 18 years in prison for the counts on which he was convicted, but aggravating factors could increase that to 24 years.

Attorneys will be back in court Tuesday for arguments as to sentencing.

‘Despicable behaviour’

Siebel Newsom welcomed the verdicts.

“Harvey Weinstein will never be able to rape another woman,” she said.

“He will spend the rest of his life behind bars where he belongs. Harvey Weinstein is a serial predator and what he did was rape.”

Siebel Newsom said that “throughout the trial, Weinstein’s lawyers used sexism, misogyny and bullying tactics to intimidate, demean and ridicule us survivors. This trial was a stark reminder that we as a society have work to do.”

The Oscar-winning producer had denied all the charges, with his attorney seeking to portray accusers either as liars who never had sex with his client, or as women who willingly lay on the casting couch, swapping sex for a leg up in the competitive world of filmmaking.

Weinstein, who was credited with making the careers of household names like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, used his power to prey on and silence women, said prosecutor Marlene Martinez.

The jury heard testimony from women who said they had been tricked into being alone with Weinstein in his hotel room.

Several described how they had begged him to stop as he forced himself on them, made them perform oral sex on him, or watch him masturbate, sometimes as he groped them.

“We know the despicable behaviour the defendant engaged in,” Martinez told the jury in her closing argument, adding Weinstein believed he was so powerful that people would excuse his behavior.

“‘That’s just Harvey being Harvey. That’s just Hollywood.’ And for so long that’s what everyone did. Everyone just turned their heads,” Martinez said.

“It is time for the defendant’s reign of terror to end,” she added. “It is time for the kingmaker to be brought to justice.”

About the author

AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French state-owned international news agency based in Paris. It is the world's oldest news agency, having been founded in 1835 as Havas.




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