Los Angeles jury finds Weinstein guilty of rape in mixed verdict
By Lauren Herstik, Jill Cowan and Livia Albeck-Ripka
Harvey Weinstein, once a film colossus who wielded immense power in Hollywood, was found guilty Monday of raping and sexually assaulting an actress in 2013, but jurors found him not guilty of one charge and could not decide on three other counts.
The verdict, delivered by jurors in Los Angeles, was the second sex crimes conviction for Weinstein, 70, who was found guilty nearly three years ago of sexual assault and rape in New York. It served as a backstop for keeping Weinstein in prison, given that New York’s highest court has agreed to review his conviction there.
A string of accusations in 2017 against the former movie producer propelled the #MeToo movement into a global phenomenon, holding powerful men across entertainment and government accountable for decades of sexual misconduct, and inciting a worldwide uprising by women sharing their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
Because of some of the complicated dynamics of the verdict and the state’s sentencing laws, Weinstein faces the possibility of 18 to 24 years behind bars in California — not a maximum of life in prison. He would serve that time after completing his sentence in New York, where he still has 21 years left in prison unless his appeal is successful.
Weinstein faced seven counts in Los Angeles — two of rape and five of sexual assault — stemming from incidents involving four women from 2004 to 2013. Jurors deliberated for more than nine days, and the length of their discussions reflected the difficulty they had in reaching unanimity on some charges. They agreed that Weinstein was guilty of three counts — rape, forcible oral sex and sexual penetration — involving an Italian actress who testified that he attacked her in a hotel room in 2013.
They also acquitted Weinstein of one count of sexual battery involving a massage therapist.
But the jurors could not decide on two counts related to accusations made by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker and the wife of Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, nor could they agree on one count stemming from Lauren Young, a model and screenwriter who said she was assaulted by Weinstein in his hotel room.
The courtroom, mostly packed with lawyers and reporters, was silent as the clerk read the complicated verdict. At one point, a cellphone went off, and Weinstein shot a look across the gallery, searching for the source. He slumped a bit in his chair upon hearing the guilty verdicts on the first three counts, and he showed no visible reaction on the other four.
Prosecutors will now have to decide whether to retry the three counts on which the jury was deadlocked. Gloria Allred, the lawyer for Young, said after the verdict that her client was “100% committed to testifying again if she was asked to do so.”
Siebel Newsom said after the verdict that she was confident that Weinstein would never be released.
“He will spend the rest of his life behind bars where he belongs,” she said in a statement. “Harvey Weinstein is a serial predator and what he did was rape.”
The mixed verdict followed weeks of tearful, often graphic testimony by the four accusers, and by four other women who were allowed under state law to testify about similar experiences they said they had with Weinstein in order to establish a pattern of behavior. A fifth accuser dropped out of the case.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers made their closing arguments more than two weeks ago. As days passed without a verdict, frustrations grew behind the scenes among those who had hoped Weinstein would be convicted in short order. Throughout the deliberations, the jurors asked a question and for testimony to be read back, but the specifics of their queries were withheld by Judge Lisa B. Lench of Los Angeles Superior Court in a rare move to shield courtroom information from the public.
In testimony, women described conduct that for many has become familiar in the five years since The New York Times reported accusations of Weinstein’s behavior.
Prosecutors told jurors that Weinstein was a serial predator with a finely tuned strategy for preying on vulnerable women. During her closing argument, Marlene Martinez, a deputy district attorney, showed an image of a wolf pouncing and a menacing metal trap.
“There is no question that Harvey Weinstein was a predator,” she said. “And, like all predators, he had a method.”
Weinstein, a “titan” of the film industry, would first show interest in a younger woman’s career, she said. Then he would arrange to meet with the woman under the guise of helping her professionally. Prosecutors said Weinstein would typically insist that the woman meet in his suite, where he would isolate and assault her.
“Confined within those walls, victims were not able to run from his hulking mass,” she said.
Lawyers for Weinstein sought to portray his accusers as opportunists who had consensual sex with the film producer as a means of trying to get ahead in Hollywood; only later, embarrassed by the encounters in light of the seismic shift in the industry, did they say they had been harmed, the lawyers said.
In his closing argument for the defense, one lawyer, Alan Jackson, said the case came down to whether the jurors trusted the women.
“‘Take my word for it’ — five words that sum up the entirety of the prosecution’s case,” Jackson said. “Everything else was smoke and mirrors.”
Prosecutors and Weinstein’s defense team walked briskly out of the courtroom past reporters. Paul Thompson, a deputy district attorney, declined to comment because the case was still open; lawyers are scheduled to return Tuesday for more arguments related to special findings on some of the counts.
George Gascón, the district attorney of Los Angeles County, in a statement praised the women who testified for their “extraordinary bravery” and said that he hoped the partial verdicts would “bring at least some measure of justice to the victims.”
Still, he expressed some disappointment at the outcome. “They deserve better than what the system has given them,” he said of the women.