LOS ANGELES - Defense attorneys for disgraced former film producer Harvey Weinstein began presenting their case Monday in his trial on sex-related charges involving four women, including Gov. Gavin Newsom's wife.
The brief court session started when Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench asked Weinstein if he planned to testify in his own defense. The defendant replied that he would not testify.
Defense attorneys called three witnesses in the morning Monday — a hotel manager, a firefighter and a Los Angeles police officer — with each spending about 10 minutes on the stand.
Weinstein, now 70, was indicted on 11 sex-related charges involving five women, including one count each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation involving Newsom's wife, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
Calling Sam Jagger, the former general manager of the Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel, Weinstein attorney Alan Jackson suggested that alleged Weinstein victim "Jane Doe 1" had stayed at the hotel for weeks after the purported rape in February 2013.
Showing the jury registration and room records from the woman, Jackson indicated that the only complaint from the room had to do with excessive dust.
In other efforts to poke holes in the prosecution's case against Weinstein, Jackson questioned Los Angeles city firefighter Matthew Morocco about an incident report at the hotel on Feb. 18, 2013 — seemingly the only official report to officials around the time of the alleged rape. According to computerized records, the call was an automatic fire alarm generated at the hotel in which a fire engine responded but no fire was found.
Also called to the stand was LAPD Officer Stephanie Frias, who testified that on Sept. 28, 2017, she met with "Jane Doe 1," who had contacted the police department not to report her own alleged rape years earlier, but to say that her daughter was the purported victim of a sexual assault.
Frias told the jury that she met with the daughter but no discussion took place of the mother's alleged rape by Weinstein.
"Jane Doe 1" was the first witness to testify in the trial in October. The European model and actor alleged that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him and then raped her in 2013 at the hotel when she was visiting L.A. on a business trip. Her daughter also testified during the trial about her mother's alleged dramatic change in demeanor when her mother ran into Weinstein at a film festival four years after the purported rape.
Weinstein's defense began following the judge's Nov. 17 decision to reject a bid by his attorneys to acquit him of all seven counts, with the judge saying she thought there was "enough evidence to send all these counts to the jury."
Her ruling came on the same day the prosecution rested its case-in- chief against Harvey Weinstein and the jury was sent home for a Thanksgiving holiday break.
Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson told the judge outside the jury's presence on Nov. 15 that the prosecution was not going to proceed with four counts — two counts each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation involving "Jane Doe #5," who had not been mentioned in the prosecution's opening statement. Those charges were subsequently dismissed by the judge.
Testimony is expected to resume Wednesday, with closing arguments also beginning that day.
In emotional testimony during the prosecution's case, Siebel Newsom told jurors she still lives with the trauma of being raped and sexually assaulted by Weinstein in a Beverly Hills hotel room 17 years ago.
Siebel Newsom — who was referred to in court only as "Jane Doe #4" but has been publicly identified by her attorney — wrapped up her second and final day on the witness stand with an emotional outburst when asked if she intended to have sex with Weinstein when she went to his suite at The Peninsula in September 2005.
"No!" she said, her voice filled with emotion.
Defense attorney Mark Werksman contended in his opening statement that two of the alleged victims named in the charges "just made it up" and that it was "transactional sex" for the other two women.
"You will see that these were all consensual sexual relations or, in some cases, they didn't happen at all," Werksman said. "Mr. Weinstein is an innocent man who is not guilty of the charges in this indictment."
Werksman told jurors Weinstein's accusers were "women who willingly played the game by the rules applied back then" and now "claim they were raped and sexually assaulted."
"He's not Brad Pitt or George Clooney. He's not hot," Weinstein's lawyer said. "They had sex with him because he was powerful ..."
Weinstein was extradited from New York, where he was convicted of raping an aspiring actress and of a criminal sex act against a former production assistant. The state's highest court has since agreed to hear his appeal involving that case.
He remains behind bars.