NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Weinstein and several of the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct converged Monday at the New York City courthouse, where a judge and his lawyers were handling the final preparations for his high-stakes trial on charges of rape and assault.
Weinstein, 67, entered the building leaning on a walker following a recent back surgery, sporting a dark suit and disheveled hair. When asked outside the courtroom how his back felt, Weinstein responded with a thin smile and a so-so gesture with his hand.
Across the street, actresses and other women who say they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Weinstein dismissed him as a villain undeserving of anyone’s pity.
“He looked cowardly. He wouldn’t look at us. He wouldn’t make eye contact,” said Sarah Ann Masse, a performer and writer who said Weinstein once sexually harassed her in his underwear during a job interview. “This trial is a cultural reckoning regardless of its legal outcome,” she said.
Jury selection in the trial is expected to start Tuesday, more than two years since the allegations first came to widespread public attention and catalyzed the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein faces allegations that he raped one woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.
He has pleaded not guilty and says any sexual activity was consensual. If he’s convicted of the most serious charges against him, two counts of predatory sexual assault, Weinstein faces a mandatory life sentence.
For that to happen, prosecutors must demonstrate Weinstein had a habit of violating women, beyond the two directly involved in the encounters in which he’s charged. To that end, they plan to call actress Annabella Sciorra, who says Weinstein forced himself inside her Manhattan apartment in 1993 or 1994 and raped her after she starred in a film for his movie studio.
They also want jurors to hear from some of the more than 75 women who have come forward publicly to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault. The first allegations were brought to light by The New York Times and The New Yorker in October 2017.
The judge hasn’t said how many other accusers will be allowed to testify.
Speaking outside the courthouse as proceedings began, a group of Weinstein’s accusers spoke with reporters, including Masse, the actresses Rosanna Arquette, Dominique Huett and Rose McGowan, model Paula Williams, Louise Godbold and the actress and journalist Lauren Sivan.
McGowan thanked the women who will testify during the trial as alleged victims for representing many more women who may never get their day in court.
“They are standing for us, and I am immensely proud of them,” she said. “We didn’t have our day. But hopefully they will. Their victory will be our victory. Their loss will be our loss.”
Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, has argued the case is weak and said she plans to aggressively cross-examine the accusers.
Picking a jury for Weinstein’s trial could take a while, in part because immense media attention on the case could mean some potential jurors already have their minds made up. Weinstein’s lawyers tried to get the trial moved out of Manhattan, but a court rejected that.