Harvey Weinstein indicted on new sex crimes charges in Los Angeles
Harvey Weinstein has been indicted on new sex crime charges in Los Angles, just as his trial on separate rape and sexual assault charges in New York was poised to get under way.
Prosecutors in LA recently said they were reviewing eight cases accusing Weinstein of sexual assault.
Los Angeles County district attorney Jackie Lacey said Weinstein had been charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013.
"We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them," she said in a statement.
"I want to commend the victims who have come forward and bravely recounted what happened to them. It is my hope that all victims of sexual violence find strength and healing as they move forward."
The news came on the day Weinstein and several of the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct converged at a New York City court where a judge and lawyers handled the final preparations for his trial on charges of rape and assault.
Speaking at the New York courthouse before the latest announcement, Weinstein's lawyers suggested they knew charges might be coming. They asked the judge for potential jurors to be sequestered partly because of the possibility that charges could be brought elsewhere against Weinstein while the trial was ongoing. The judge denied that request.
Earlier on Monday, Weinstein, 67, entered the courthouse in New York leaning on a walking frame following a recent back surgery. Asked outside court how his back felt, Weinstein responded with a thin smile and a so-so gesture with his hand.
In a brief hearing, the judge declined to gag Weinstein's lawyers from speaking to the media — in addition to denying the motion to sequester jurors. The judge also turned down a defence request to call as a witness a police detective who had been accused of mishandling part of the case.
Across the street, actresses and other women who say they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Weinstein dismissed him as a villain undeserving of 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 will start on Tuesday, more than two years after the allegations first came to widespread public attention and catalysed 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 woman, Mimi Haleyi, who had come to him seeking film work in 2006.
He has pleaded not guilty and says any sexual activity was consensual. If he is convicted of the most serious charges against him, two counts of predatory sexual assault, he faces a mandatory life sentence.
For that to happen, prosecutors must demonstrate he had a habit of violating women, beyond the two directly involved in the encounters in which he is charged. They plan to call actress Annabella Sciorra, who says Weinstein forced his way into her Manhattan apartment in 1993 or 1994 and raped her after she starred in a film for his movie studio.
They also wanted jurors to hear from a few of the more than 75 women who have come forward publicly to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault.
Prosecutors won permission from the court to try to buttress their case with four other witnesses: Sciorra and three other accusers who have not been named.
One of those women said she had an encounter with Weinstein at a Manhattan hotel in 2004. A second was to give evidence about an interaction with Weinstein at a SoHo apartment in 2005. A third was described in court papers as having had an incident with Weinstein at a hotel in Beverly Hills, California, in February 2013.
Speaking outside court as proceedings began, a group of Weinstein's accusers spoke to reporters, including Masse, actresses Rosanna Arquette, Dominique Huett and Rose McGowan, model Paula Williams and actress and journalist Lauren Sivan.
McGowan thanked the women who will give evidence during the trial 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."
Ms Rotunno has argued the case is weak and said she plans to aggressively cross-examine the accusers.
In court on Monday, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi immediately set a combative tone by referring to Weinstein as a "predator", drawing an objection from the defence table.
The lawyers also clashed after prosecutors asked the judge to bar all lawyers in the trial from speaking about the evidence outside court. Ms Illuzzi accused Ms Rotunno of "degrading and humiliating and putting down our witnesses" in statements to the press leading up to the trial.
"I have not degraded anyone," Ms Rotunno responded.
Judge James Burke refused to issue a gag order, but told both sides: "Leave the witnesses alone, OK? Don't talk about them in any way."