During her opening arguments, prosecutor Meghan Haft referred to Weinstein’s relationship with Clinton, and on a courtroom screen displayed a picture of Weinstein with the former president.
After the jury was excused for the day, Weinstein attorney Arthur Aidala called for a mistrial, making the case that the reference was a way to connect it to Clinton’s own sexual indiscretions and even his impeachment, at a time when the Senate is in the midst of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
“In any day of the history of the world, to show President Clinton in a sex crimes case,” Aidala said, noting that the “last impeachment trial had to do with that particular president.”
“President Clinton has nothing to do with this case at all,” he said, calling it “100 percent irrelevant.”
He added that the prosecution did not bring up that President Barack Obama’s daughter interned at The Weinstein Co. and did not cite Weinstein’s friendship with the Cuomo family.
Clinton’s impeachment “wasn’t over a crime of sexual assault, it was a crime of lying under oath, but it still encompasses that whole time in history,” Aidala added.
But prosecutor Joan Illuzi said that Weinstein’s friendship with Clinton is relevant. She said that he bragged about his close relationship with the Clintons, in a way that was intimidating because it showed his power and influence. Illuzi said that one witness will testify, that Weinstein was “taking personal phone calls from [Bill Clinton] while she was with him.”
The defense also objected to other things, including the way that Weinstein was referred to in the prosecution’s opening statement, complaining that he was called a “predatory monster, predatory and disgusting.” They also raised issues with the prosecution’s display of photos of his accusers, including of one woman’s headshot, saying that it was a way to “poison the jurors” at the outset of the case.
Judge James Burke denied the motions for a mistrial without explanation.
PREVIOUSLY: Lance Maerov, former board member of The Weinstein Co. was the first witness called in the trial, as he testified for the prosecution that Weinstein threatened personal litigation against him and that his public persona was ‘diametrically opposed to who he was as a person.”
On a brief cross examination, Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno asked him, “You don’t like Mr. Weinstein, do you?”
“Not particularly,” he said.
Maerov was an outside board member of The Weinstein Co. as part of WPP’s investment in the company, a situation he said that Weinstein was none too happy with. “Of the many boards I sat on, this had the weakest governance,” Maerov said.
Weinstein’s attorneys objected to many of the prosecution’s questions, which included whether he thought the producer was often “slovenly dressed” and was a “loud person.”
Later, the defense even asked for a mistrial based on the questioning, calling them “improper” and a way to “bolster the testimony of their witnesses.” But prosecutor Joan Illuzi noted that Weinstein appeared in court with a walker, a far different figure than the “large, imposing and loud” figure that his accusers met.
The motion for a mistrial was denied.
PREVIOUSLY: Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorney Damon Cheronis refuted his accusers’ allegations by spending much of his opening statement displaying, via Power Point presentation, the text of some of the women’s own emails and writings.
He said that Miriam Haleyi, who claims that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2016, “changed her story. It always changes to hurt Harvey.” He said that a few days after the incident, she called his office and requested he pay for a ticket to fly her to London. He also cited emails in the years afterward in which she pitched him the idea for a TV show called Trash TV, and a June, 2008 message in which she “reminisces” with him. According to Cheronis, it “Remember the summer of 2006 and I told you The Addams Family would make a great play? Aren’t I a genius?”
“That is not predator and prey,” Cheronis told the jury.
But in October 2017, after the Weinstein sexual assault stories broke in The New York Times and The New Yorker and ignited the Me Too movement, Haleyi hired Gloria Allred and appeared with her at a press conference.
In the case of Jessica Mann, who claims that Weinstein raped her in 2013, Cheronis pointed to an extensive number of emails she sent to him in the years after the alleged sexual assault.
In one email from July 29, 2014, Cheronis said, he tells her to bring her mom to a planned get together. “Yes she would love to meet you,” Mann responded.
“Members of the jury, you are going to ask yourself, ‘What is going on?’ Those are her words. This is not about a woman who was tricked by a master manipulator,” Cheronis said in his opening statement.
He signaled that they would present other things that Mann wrote to Weinstein or about him through the years. He also described a Dec. 8, 2014 “diary” that she kept on her phone of her personal thoughts. She describes Weinstein as a “casual boyfriend” and included a detailed description of a “failed threesome.” While she is expected to testify that the threesome “felt forced,” “felt uncomfortable” and that she “wanted nothing to do with it, Cheronis said that she described it as “new” and “exciting,” but that she “just wasn’t into it.”
In a Feb. 28, 2017 email to Weinstein, Cheronis said, she wrote, “I love you. I always do, but I hate feeling like a booty call :)”
He said that after the Weinstein sexual assault story broke in the media later that fall, “relationships were relabeled and reimagined.”
He suggested to the jury that the women were seeking to continue their relationships with Weinstein to advance their own careers.
“It doesn’t sit well with us, but it is reality. We are dealing with human beings in this case,” Cheronis said.
After a lunch hour break, Cheronis told the jury that they also will challenge Anabella Sciorra’s claim that Weinstein raped her in the winter of 1993-94. He said that a friend will testify that Sciorra told her that she did “crazy things” like “having sex with Harvey Weinstein.”
He called on the jury to “disabuse yourself of any notion of what you think may have happened.”
“It is not true. it is not what happened. it is not real,” he said of the prosecution’s claims.
He said that even though they are challenging the accusers’ stories, he is “not victim shaming anyone. I am not going to beat anybody up. We are here to ask questions that have never been asked before.”
PREVIOUSLY: New York Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast described a pattern of repeated sexual assault by producer Harvey Weinstein, telling jurors in her opening argument Wednesday that they will come to see the famous Hollywood producer as “a sexual predator and a rapist.”
The jury of seven men and five women listened intently this morning as she described, in graphic detail, the stories of three alleged victims, all of them vulnerable in their lives and careers who were “tricked” by Weinstein into letting them believe that he had an interest in their careers, yet forced them into situations where he raped and assaulted them.
“It will be clear through out this trial that the defendant knew he was preying on the naive and inexperienced,” Hast said, as Weinstein, sitting with his attorneys, looked on. As she described one woman’s story, she told jurors, “despite what your eyes are seeing, this is not a harmless old man.” In the courtroom, Weinstein then shook his head.
Weinstein, 67, faces five charges of sexual assault stemming from allegations by two women related to incidents in 2006 and 2013. The former Miramax honcho has insisted that all the sexual encounters were consensual. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
In her opening argument, which lasted almost 90 minutes, Haft focused on three alleged victims who will testify at the trial, flashing a picture of them on a screen as she described what happened to them: Miriam Haleyi, who claims that Weinstein violently assaulted her in his New York loft on July 10, 2006; and Jessica Mann, who claims that he raped her at his hotel room at the Doubletree Hotel in New York City on March 18, 2013.
Haft also said that they will hear testimony of actress Annabella Sciorra, who claims that Weinstein raped her at her apartment sometime in the winter of 1993-94 at her Gramercy Park apartment. Although her claims are too old for prosecution as a sexual assault, she is a named plaintiff in the case as prosecutors pursue claims of Weinstein’s predatory conduct.
Haft also said that the jurors would hear on the stories of three accusers whose allegations did not result in charges, in an effort to expose similar patterns of misconduct.
“Ultimately this trial is about the defendant’s style of conquest, and it is for his lack of empathy that he must be held accountable,” Hast said.
Weinstein’s attorneys plan to present “loving” emails and text messages that they show from Haleyi and Mann after the alleged incidents occurred. But Haft asked the jurors to weigh the power dynamics between Weinstein, whether professional or physical (she several times referred to his 300-pound-plus weight) in deciding who to believe. Moreover, she described the women’s reactions to the alleged assaults as a function of the trauma: living in a state of fear of Weinstein and manipulation as he tried to have further contact with them.
“When these women take the stand during this trial and tell you about tier relationships with the defendant, keep in mind who Harvey Weinstein was,” Haft said, adding that they should “listen to these women with an open mind.”
As an example, she pointed out that even though after the alleged assault, Mann continued to try to have some kind of relationship with the defendant.”
“You will learn that Jessica Mann felt trapped, that there was no way to get out without sacrificing her friends or work,” Haft said, adding that Mann felt that “maybe I can just grin and bear it, and grin and bear it is what she did. Jessica tried to put on a brave face, pretending to the world that nothing was wrong, dying in side.”
She told the jury that despite the continued contact that the alleged victims had with Weinstein, they will have to decide whether incidents were sexual assaults, “not whether the victims’ reaction was the best reaction.”
The courtroom was filled with media from all over the world, with members lining up at 4 AM to get one of 70 courthouse seats reserved for the press.
Weinstein, wearing a black suit, entered the courtroom without his familiar walker, leaning on the arm of his media representative. Among those who showed up at the courthouse was Gloria Allred, who has represented accusers including Haleyi and Sciorra, and sat in the front row on the prosecution side.