Harvey Weinstein abused his power to corner women in hotel rooms and impose himself on them, the prosecution alleges during his trial in Los Angeles.
The disgraced film producer faces 11 charges of rape and forced oral sex related to allegations made by women who say they were assaulted between 2004 and 2015.
Weinstein’s accusers sparked the #MeToo movement more than five years ago and he has been serving a 23-year prison sentence for two years following his conviction for rape and sexual assault in a New York court in 2020.
The Los Angeles trial was widely seen as symbolic – but it took on much greater significance in light of the fact that Weinstein won an appeal against his convictions in New York.
If he wins this appeal, his future freedom will likely be decided by a jury in Los Angeles.
They heard an opening statement from the prosecution, delivered by Paul Thompson, which detailed disturbing allegations against the 70-year-old.
He began with a series of quotes from the alleged victims.
Some have described the victims’ fear of Weinstein’s height.
“Part of me thought I should just run for it, but he’s a big guy. He’s tall. He’s wide. He’s overweight. He’s overbearing.”
Another set of quotes were featured on the victims’ pleas for Weinstein to stop.
“Please stop, I don’t want this. What are you doing?” read one quote.
“I was trying to convince him it wouldn’t happen…I was like please I have kids,” another said.
“I told him to stop. I told him to leave the bathroom. And he didn’t. He just kept coming towards me,” read a third.
Mr Thompson says the accusers ‘worried he could crush their careers if they reported what he had done’.
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Three of the alleged victims remain unnamed – they are Jane Doe 1, a model and actress who was living in Italy at the time; Jane Doe 2, a 23-year-old aspiring model and screenwriter; and Jane Doe 3, Registered Massage Therapist.
Another of the alleged victims, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, waived her anonymity.
She is now a documentary filmmaker and wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.
But 17 years ago, when she met Weinstein, she was “a helpless actress trying to make her way in Hollywood”, according to the prosecution.
Ms Newsom will testify that she met Weinstein at the Toronto International Film Festival and later invited him to a party that many other people attended at her West Hollywood home.
Weinstein then invited Ms Newsom to “discuss his career” at the Peninsula Hotel, the court heard.
She sat on the couch and waited for Weinstein, who entered the room in work clothes with five or six other people.
“But to his surprise, the aides quickly left,” Mr Thompson said, for the prosecution.
“Harvey Weinstein went to the bathroom, then he summoned her. She goes to him and finds him in a bathrobe.
“She was shocked and her mind raced,” Mr Thompson said, alleging Weinstein forced Ms Newsom onto the bed, “crying and shaking”.
“She couldn’t utter words because of her fear,
“Weinstein told her to ‘relax, it’ll make her feel better’.”
The prosecution alleges that Weinstein then forced her to perform oral sex and then raped her.
A total of eight women will testify that they were sexually assaulted by Weinstein.
The trial is expected to last another six weeks.