Monday 27 January 2020

Weinstein's accusers claim his frail figure is an act as he faces new assault charges

Weinstein uses a walking frame on his way into court. PHOTO: Reuters
Weinstein uses a walking frame on his way into court. PHOTO: Reuters
Hopeful: Actress Rose McGowan speaking in support of women making trial accusations. PHOTO: Reuters

Harriet Alexander

Hunched over and shuffling along with his walking frame, Harvey Weinstein's pitiful arrival at court yesterday to begin his trial for rape and sexual assault was like something straight out of his films.

Gone was the bullish Hollywood titan. In his place was a wretched soul.

"I think he's taken some good acting tips," said Rose McGowan, one of the first women to accuse him.

Weinstein's day began miserably, as hecklers hurled insults and cameras flashed in his face in the frigid morning air - a man accustomed to the warm red-carpet blaze of publicity, now facing something far more ignominious.

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It got worse.

Hours after the end of the first hearing in Manhattan - a brief and procedural affair - prosecutors on the other side of the country announced they were charging Weinstein with yet more crimes.

The Los Angeles county district attorney's office filed four charges against Weinstein yesterday, accusing him of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint.

They allege that, in February 2013, Weinstein went to a hotel and raped a woman after pushing his way inside her room. The next evening, they claim Weinstein sexually assaulted another woman at a hotel suite in Beverly Hills.

"We believe the evidence will show the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit crimes against them," said Jackie Lacey, the district attorney.

Weinstein's accusers, who now number more than 80, spoke of their relief yesterday that the court case had finally begun, while mocking his dishevelled appearance.

The 67-year-old had surgery on his back in December following a car crash in August. His haggard appearance at pre-trial hearings surprised onlookers.

However, the disgraced film producer has long argued with his lawyers that winning over the court of public opinion is vital to his case. In December, photos were published of the producer without his walking frame in the 'New York Post'. The newspaper claimed they were taken recently, suggesting that Weinstein was perhaps trying to curry favour among potential jurors.

Rosanna Arquette, the actress who rejected Weinstein's aggressive sexual overtures at the Beverly Hills Hotel in the early nineties, said outside court he looked a "broken man" as he arrived and avoided the assembled women.

"He seemed cowardly," she said. "He wouldn't look at us, he wouldn't make eye contact. Nothing has changed. We weren't screaming; we just wanted to face him, and he avoided us."

During the opening hearing of a trial that is expected to last six to eight weeks, Weinstein sat impassively as his lawyers began proceedings.

Despite the dozens of allegations, the trial hinges on the accusations of two women - Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant, and a second, unnamed, accuser.

Ms Haleyi says he forcefully performed oral sex on her in 2006 at his New York apartment. The second woman accuses him of rape in 2013.

Outside the courtroom, some of the famous to have accused him of rape and sexual assault voiced their disgust at his alleged actions.

"Dear Harvey, no matter what lies you tell yourself, you did this," said Rose McGowan, like the other accusers, dressed in red. "Today, Lady Justice is staring down on a super-predator. You brought this upon yourself by hurting so many. You have only yourself to blame." Arquette said the trial marked a turning point not just in Hollywood.

"Time's up on sexual harassment in all workplaces," she said. "Time's up on empty apologies without consequence. And time's up on the pervasive culture of silence that has enabled abusers like Weinstein."

Donna Rotunno, Weinstein's lead lawyer, said in an interview before proceedings that her client had made "bad choices" but that he was not abusive. If convicted, Weinstein faces life in prison. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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