Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer plans to argue that the imprisoned producer did not sexually assault Jennifer Siebel Newsom nearly 20 years ago but instead had “consensual sex” with California’s now-First Partner.
In a motions hearing Monday in downtown Los Angeles ahead of Weinstein’s criminal trial, lawyers for the defense and the L.A. County District Attorney’s office were at loggerheads over the inclusion of a 2007 correspondence between Newsom and Weinstein over revelations of an affair Gavin Newsom had with an aide while mayor of San Francisco.
Citing “bad press” fallout from the affair, the email from then-Jennifer Siebel came about two years after Weinstein allegedly assaulted the actress-filmmaker in an L.A.-area hotel room. With the soon-to-be first lady of San Francisco calling the wife of Newsom’s campaign manager the one to blame for the affair, the email to Weinstein came soon after Siebel had started dating Newsom. The couple would marry in 2008; Newsom became California’s lieutenant governor, serving from 2011-19, and was sworn in as the state’s 40th governor in 2019.
“Of all things you’d think a woman that is raped by Harvey Weinstein wouldn’t do, it’s [ask him] how to deal with a sex scandal,” defense lawyer Mark Werksman told the court this morning. “The fact that she comes to Mr. Weinstein for that advice indicates the friendship and companionship of Jane Doe 4 and Mr. Weinstein. The defense will be that they had an affair, that they had consensual sex.”
Long identified as Jane Doe #4 in court documents, Siebel Newsom went public last week with her role in the high-profile West Coast trial, which is anticipated to last until the end of the year.
“She intends to testify at his trial in order to seek some measure of justice for survivors, and as part of her life’s work to improve the lives of women,” Siebel Newsom’s attorney Elizabeth Fegan said today. “Please respect her choice to not discuss this matter outside of the courtroom.”
Siebel Newsom first brought up her experience with the much-accused Pulp Fiction producer in a 2017 article soon after the publication of a New York Times exposé detailing Weinstein’s decades of vile behavior.
As a litany of motions whipped through the docket, they certainly were discussing Siebel Newsom at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.
In the session Monday that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench called sometimes “very dramatic,” the judge eventually ruled that the 2007 email can be entered into the case, sort of. Hearing the objections from Assistant DA Marlene Martinez over including the correspondence and grilling Siebel Newsom over it, Lench told the court: “I’m not going to allow it, Mr. Werksman. If you want to ask him whether she sought his advice over a situation with the press, that’s fine.” She added that, in her opinion, the gist of the email was “too tangential in relation to this trial.”
Various texts and tweets sought by both sides from Siebel Newsom — including one about former First Daughter Malia Obama’s chances of being assaulted during her internship at the now-shuttered The Weinstein Company — were rejected by Lench today.
Still, in this year of an anticipated easy re-election for Newsom, the issue of politics and donations by the formerly deep-pocketed Weinstein to various Newsom campaigns also came up.
“We’re seeking to exclude anything political, because this has nothing to do with politics,” Martinez said in court this afternoon.
“Your honor, surely you’re not suggesting that the defense can’t question Jane Doe 4 over her solicitation of donations for her boyfriend from Mr. Weinstein,” retorted Werksman. The judge pointed out to all present that part of the questionnaire for potential jurors mentions Newsom and his political stances. and that could prove problematic. The defense promised they would avoid the topic in talking to likely jurors, which seemed to satisfy the DA’s office for now.
Weinstein is facing grand jury charges on four counts of rape, four counts of forcible oral copulation, one count of sexual penetration by use of force, plus one count of sexual battery by restraint and sexual battery in incidents involving five women in L.A. County from 2004-13. Sentenced to 23 years in prison by a Manhattan jury in March 2020 for multiple sex crimes, Weinstein faces a maximum of 140 years behind bars if found guilty.
With jury selection expected to go until October 23 and opening arguments soon to follow, Weinstein’s Los Angeles trial is anticipated to last until likely the end of the year.
The ailing 70-year-old former mogul is simultaneously preparing to launch his appeal in New York after Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, earlier this summer granted Weinstein the right to appeal the ruling. Oral arguments on whether Weinstein received a fair trial two years ago will begin in early 2023.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.