In its favor, 2022 may be the last year we’ll have to endure the sordid trials of Harvey Weinstein. Convicted for a second time, Harvey Weinstein will now likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. On Dec. 21, a Los Angeles jury found the disgraced movie executive guilty of three charges of sexual assault and rape against Jane Doe #1, one of four women who testified.
The latest guilty verdict may seem like a victory for victims of abuse, but in some respects it was a small one. After a seven-week trial, the jury deliberated for nine days over two weeks, unable to agree on most charges. They returned with a split verdict. The jurors (eight men and four women) failed to find for three of Weinstein’s four accusers. Instead they found for the woman whose case had seemed thinnest.
That the jury voted to connect with only one accuser shows how difficult it is to hold sexual abusers accountable — and how much bravery it takes for victims to go public. During the L.A. trial, the four Jane Does had much to endure.
Defense lawyers claimed two of the women were lying and two had engaged in “transactional sex” with Weinstein. They called Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of Gov. Gavin Newsom who elected to use her own name, “just another bimbo who slept with Harvey to get ahead.”
Siebel Newsom was driven to tears on the stand and made to reproduce moaning sounds that she said she used during the 2005 encounter to end an assault. She responded that what Weinstein attorney Alan Jackson was putting her through was “exactly what he did to me.”
There is no dispute that defendants are entitled to mount a defense, but the repulsive tactics used in the L.A. trial pose questions about the extent defense attorneys are allowed to go. During the trial, the defense called into question each woman’s character and lifestyle. The four not only went through the humiliation and trauma of testifying but were subjected to sexism, misogyny, and bullying tactics. The 40 women witnesses who testified to provide context and corroboration were also treated in ways that men seldom face.
In her instructions, Judge Lisa Lerch warned jurors not to view the movie nor the trailer for She Said. The film, which debuted in November, is based on a book recounting how two New York Times investigative reporters managed to first get the Weinstein story into print. The reporters’ work, a telling look at the drudgery and persistence of investigative reporting, has been compared to Spotlight and All the Presidents’ Men. Reviewers called it “one of the most important stories of a generation.”
Weinstein, who has become a lightning rod for #MeToo, now faces a possible 18-year sentence added to the 23 years he received at the 2020 New York trial. He is appealing the New York trial decision to that state’s supreme court and likely also will appeal the L.A. outcome. That prospect leaves #MeToo supporters uneasy, as there have been recent setbacks where public figures like Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey have managed to escape alleged charges.
Siebel Newsom is among those who remain positive despite the L. A. verdict. Although that case resulted in a split verdict, Newsom found some consolation for the victims. As she said, “Weinstein will never be able to rape another woman. He’s going to prison where he belongs.”