Harvey Weinstein Heads To Trial For Sex Crimes In A #MeToo Landmark It's the first criminal trial for Weinstein, whose alleged misconduct helped set off a movement. Now, the former producer faces five charges that may land him a long prison sentence in New York.


Harvey Weinstein Heads To Trial For Sex Crimes In A #MeToo Landmark

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Harvey Weinstein goes on trial today. The formerly acclaimed film producer faces sexual assault charges filed by two accusers. Those charges are only the cases that prosecutors thought they could bring in New York. They amount to a tiny fraction of the public accusations made that helped to ignite the #MeToo movement. NPR's Rose Friedman has our report, which, we should note, contains details of sexual misconduct.

ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: More than 80 women have publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct since The New York Times and New Yorker magazine published bombshell reports more than two years ago. The alleged abuse took place in cities around the world. But it was the Manhattan DA's office which eventually charged Weinstein. And in May of 2018, Weinstein walked into the New York City Police Department to turn himself in.



UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Harvey, what took you so long?

FRIEDMAN: When he arrives in court today, Weinstein will be facing five charges related to two different alleged incidents. The first involves a former Weinstein Company production assistant named Mimi Haleyi. She says that in 2006, Weinstein invited her to his New York home, where he pulled out her tampon and orally forced himself on her. She spoke to reporters in October.


MIMI HALEYI: No woman should have to be subjected to this type of unacceptable abuse. Women have the right to say no. And no is a no, regardless of the circumstances. And I told Harvey no.

FRIEDMAN: The second incident allegedly occurred in 2013. The name of that victim has not been released. In addition, actress Annabella Sciorra is expected to testify in order to bolster the charges that Weinstein committed crimes against more than one woman. Sciorra says in the winter of 1993 and '94, that Weinstein dropped her off at her apartment after a film industry dinner. She says he reappeared at her door and pushed it open. He came inside, overpowered her and raped her. She told her story to New Yorker journalist Ronan Farrow, who spoke to NPR last year.


RONAN FARROW: Her life has been irrevocably changed by this. And I am very grateful that she was in the reporting.

FRIEDMAN: All along, Weinstein has maintained that everything he did was consensual.


BENJAMIN BRAFMAN: Mr. Weinstein will enter a plea of not guilty.

FRIEDMAN: Benjamin Brafman was Weinstein's first attorney in the case. He mounted an aggressive defense in the media, arguing that while the #MeToo movement was a positive development, it also resulted in a rush to judgment for his client.


BRAFMAN: When you have a #MeToo movement that pressures public officials to take certain action when, perhaps, it's not warranted, then it gets to be very, very scary. And I think that's what happened here.

FRIEDMAN: One scene has changed lawyers several times. His current attorney, Donna Rotunno, hinted at a likely defense strategy - trying to prove that the women willingly took part in their contact with Weinstein.


DONNA ROTUNNO: And I can promise you that there is a truth that you have not reported on. We are here to uncover that truth. I think it's going to be obvious that the relationships had with women in this case were quite consensual. And we have a lot of documentation to back those things up.

FRIEDMAN: But first, jury selection starting tomorrow. Nancy Gertner is a former federal judge and author of a book on jury selection. She says in a case this public, it won't be easy.

NANCY GERTNER: The issue is not necessarily finding the needle in the haystack, you know, the one person who has never heard of the Weinstein case.

FRIEDMAN: Instead, Gertner says, each side will be scrutinizing every potential juror for signs of prejudice.

GERTNER: Every lawyer now goes on social media, looking for what the jurors have said about the case. So the lawyers will have information from social media feeds to get a sense of where the jurors are.

FRIEDMAN: Jury selection could take up to two weeks. The entire trial could last six to eight. If Harvey Weinstein is convicted on the most serious charge, he faces a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison.

Rose Friedman, NPR News, New York.

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