The Harvey Weinstein rape trial is underway, and, judging by the prosecution’s opening salvo, it looks like the tabloids and gossip magazines are going to have lots of sensational material to work with over the next weeks and months.
Addressing jurors, assistant district attorney Meghan Hast described the State of New York’s case against the disgraced producer in minute detail.
“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,” Hast told the jurors. Rather, he is a “sexual predator and rapist.”
And, she said, Weinstein exploited his “power and prestige in the entertainment industry” to prevent his alleged victims from speaking out.
“You will see that the defendant kept his rape victims close, close as he could, to make sure they couldn’t report it.”
This is an important aspect of the prosecution’s case: they are prepared to counter the argument that, if the women were indeed raped by Weinstein, they would not have remained on friendly terms with him, as many of his accusers did.
One of the alleged victims in this case is a woman named Jessica Mann, who says she was assaulted by Weinstein after meeting him in 2013. The two apparently had a relationship after the fact. The State is arguing that this was a sort of coping mechanism.
“She tried to have some sort of relationship with the defendant,” Hast said. “Over the next few 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.”
When Hast was finished the jurors were addressed by Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein’s attorneys. He characterized Hast’s statement as “a narrative that was spun to explain things that were inexplicable.”
After reminding the jurors that they have an obligation not to judge the defendant until all the facts are presented, Cheronis made reference to Mann’s relationship with Weinstein, highlighting friendly and complimentary emails Mann sent to Weinstein.
“Members of the jury, you are going to ask yourself, ‘What is going on?’ Those are her words. You are going to see an actual loving relationship in hundreds of emails and communications between Harvey Weinstein and Jessica Mann. You are going to see it, and when you see it, you’re going to ask yourself, ‘What is going on? Is this man guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? No.’”
Weinstein was reportedly moving around without his walker during the proceeding. He has been accused of using it to get sympathy, which he emphatically denies.