Harvey Weinstein indicted on new sex crimes charges in Los Angeles
Charges announced same day as the start of his trial in New York
Harvey Weinstein is facing new sex crime charges in Los Angeles, announced the same day the former Hollywood mogul was in a New York courtroom for the start of his trial for separate rape and sexual assault charges.
Weinstein has been charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents in Los Angeles County over a two-day period in 2013, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
"We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them," Lacey said at a news conference.
Weinstein faces up to 28 years in state prison if he is convicted of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force in the first case and sexual battery by restraint in the second.
A Los Angeles district attorney's office task force is still investigating sex crime allegations against Weinstein from three women, Lacey said. Prosecutors declined charges involving three other women because their cases were beyond the statute of limitations.
His arraignment has not yet been scheduled and prosecutors will recommend $5 million US bail.
Lawyers for Weinstein had no immediate response to the new charges. The Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment on them.
Earlier on Monday, in Manhattan, Weinstein appeared for the start of his landmark trial on charges of rape, allegations that helped fuel the #MeToo movement and a reckoning for powerful men accused of sexual misconduct.
Once one of Hollywood's most powerful producers, Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York. He faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.
Weinstein hobbled into court leaning on a walker, dressed in a black suit, with a member of his team holding his arm. Lead defence counsel Donna Rotunno followed close behind.
Demand for accountability
Across the street from the courthouse, the Silence Breakers, a group of Weinstein accusers including actresses Rosanna Arquette and Rose McGowan, held a news conference demanding the former producer be held accountable.
"As we stand here at the beginning of a new year and a new decade, time's up on sexual harassment in all workplaces," said Arquette. "And time's up on the pervasive culture of silence that has enabled abusers like Weinstein."
Weinstein did not engage with the accusers who shouted at him outside court. McGowan was dismissive of Weinstein's feeble appearance. "I think he's taken some good acting tips."
More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct dating back decades.
Those accusations helped fuel the #MeToo movement, in which hundreds of women have publicly accused powerful men in business, politics, the news media and entertainment of sexual harassment or assault.
Weinstein has denied the allegations, saying any sexual encounters he had were consensual.
Monday's proceedings in state court in Manhattan were limited to procedural matters, including how to keep publicity surrounding the trial from influencing the jury.
The judge hearing the case, Justice James Burke, rejected a prosecution request for a gag order that would have prevented Weinstein's legal defence team from speaking to the media. Burke also denied a defence motion to sequester jurors throughout the course of the trial, expected to last up to eight weeks.
Jury selection is slated to start on Tuesday, according to Danny Frost, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, whose office brought the charges.
Following the brief morning session, Weinstein left the court and was driven away in an SUV.
Rotunno, Weinstein's lawyer, told reporters after the session that the defence believes they can find a jury.
One of the women Weinstein was charged with assaulting, former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, has said that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2006. Prosecutors say Weinstein raped the second woman, who has not been publicly identified, in 2013
The trial will hang over the Hollywood awards season, which began with Sunday's Golden Globes. Weinstein was once a fixture at the industry's glitzy ceremonies, with numerous critically acclaimed small-budget films such as Shakespeare in Love, which won the Oscar for best picture in 1999.
Juda Engelmayer, a spokesman for Weinstein, said on Thursday that the two women in the criminal case had long-term relationships with Weinstein. He said it was prejudicial to conflate the criminal matter with allegations in civil cases or with public grievances he said were lodged by women who were not part of any lawsuit.
Allegations against Weinstein first were reported in the New York Times and The New Yorker magazine in October 2017.
Within days, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which selects Oscar winners, had expelled Weinstein. On Oct. 15, Alyssa Milano tweeted: "If you've ever been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet."
#MeToo became one of the most used widely used hashtags. In 2019 it was viewed 42 billion times, according to data from Brandwatch, a research firm.
Challenge to fill jury
Finding impartial New York City jurors amid the media frenzy surrounding the Weinstein case will be a challenge for both legal teams, experts said.
Lawyers will likely question potential jurors about their knowledge and opinion of the case, their work history and whether they have been victims of sexual misconduct.
If Weinstein is acquitted, he is still likely to face legal problems. At least 29 women in the United States, Canada and Europe have brought civil claims against him. The allegations in the civil lawsuits range from battery, assault and defamation to sex trafficking and racketeering. He has denied the allegations.
The parties have been trying to work out a $25 million US settlement to resolve most of the civil cases. The deal would not require Weinstein to contribute personally or to admit wrongdoing, prompting at least one woman to reject the proposal.
The film company Weinstein founded with his brother Bob, the Weinstein Co., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2018.
With files from The Associated Press and CBC News