Film producer Harvey Weinstein is accused of raping two women, for which he could get a life sentence. At the same time as his trial, new sexual assault charges were brought against him in Los Angeles.
Harvey Weinstein arrived at a New York City court on Monday as his trial for sexual assault got underway. Weinstein is accused of raping two women, one in 2006 and one in 2013.
The 67-year-old disgraced movie mogul has denied the charges, saying the encounters were consensual. He faces life in prison if convicted of predatory sexual assault.
The dozens of allegations against Weinstein, which became widespread public knowledge in October 2017, helped launched the #MeToo movement, causing a reckoning about workplace sexual assault not only in US show business, but in many fields and countries around the world. It also led to the bankruptcy and sale of Weinstein's production company.
Read more: Harvey Weinstein on trial: A timeline
As the proceedings in New York were getting underway, prosecutors in Los Angeles announced fresh charges against Weinstein in California. Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced in a statement that Weinstein was accused of raping one woman and sexually assaulting another over a two-day period in 2013.
"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 wrote. "I want to commend the victims who have come forward and bravely recounted what happened to them.''
'Pervasive culture of silence'
The ex-producer hobbled into court while using a walking frame. Monday's proceedings were the first pretrial hearing, with jury selection to begin on Tuesday.
Some of his victims, including actresses Rosanna Arquette and Rose McGowan, were on the courthouse steps, calling on the justice system to hold Weinstein to account.
"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."
Jokes and innuendo about Weinstein's behavior had been rampant in Hollywood for years, before explosive articles in the New York Times and New Yorker magazine brought to light the way Weinstein would assault and intimidate young actresses and punish those who rejected his sexual advances. At the time, the Weinstein Company, which he ran with his brother Bob, was famous for producing Oscar contenders.
In his book Catch and Kill, Ronan Farrow, who also authored the original New Yorker piece, detailed how Weinstein used high-powered lawyers and even former Israeli spies to silence his victims. Farrow also details how his attempts to publish the story were denied by broadcaster NBC.
Some 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault, but the statute of limitations has run out in many cases.
es/msh (AFP, Reuters)