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Web Desk
January 23, 2020

Weinstein a 'seasoned' predator, court told


Web Desk
Thu, Jan 23, 2020

NEW YORK: Disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein abused his status as a movie-producing titan to lure young women into violent sexual attacks, a prosecutor told jurors on Wednesday as the former film producer's rape trial got underway.

"The man seated right there was not just a titan in Hollywood, he was a rapist," Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast said in her opening statement in a Manhattan courtroom. She characterized Weinstein as a "seasoned predator" and said his female accusers were "no match" for him.

Weinstein, 67, is accused of assaulting two women. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.

That woman, who says Weinstein raped her in a New York hotel room in 2013, was identified for the first time in court as actress Jessica Mann, who had previously remained anonymous

The trial is a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement, in which women have gone public with allegations against powerful men in business and politics.

"It will be clear throughout this trial that the defendant knew he was preying on the naive and the defenseless," Hast told the court in the prosecution's opening arguments, saying many of his victims had come from broken homes.

"They didn't know they were being lured in on false pretenses. They thought they had got their big break. He was the old lady in the gingerbread house luring the kids."

Defense attorney Damon Cheronis team said it was "untrue" and "quite the contrary" to call Weinstein a predator as the "Pulp Fiction" producers' team started laying out their opening arguments.

"You will see the case unravel for the state, and it must, based on the evidence," he told the New York state court.

Wednesday's hearing started with Judge James Burke reminding the 12-member jury and six alternates that they must decide their verdict based on the evidence they hear in court and must not discuss the trial with anyone outside.

Hast then laid out the prosecution's case in a statement lasting around an hour and a half.

She said Weinstein raped "The Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra in the winter of 1993-94 after a pursuit which included him introducing her to the drug valium.

"He left her emotionally and physically destroyed and passed out on the floor," the prosecutor told a packed courtroom with more than 100 journalists in attendance.

The attorney said Weinstein left former production assistant Mimi Haleyi lying "motionless like a dead fish" after forcibly assaulting her in his New York apartment in July 2006.

And Hast accused Weinstein of treating actress Jessica Mann like a "rag doll" when he raped her in her hotel room in March 2013.

The trial, expected to run until March 6, will also hear evidence from Sciorra and three other accusers who were named for the first time in court Wednesday.

Cheronis said the jury would see hundreds of emails and other correspondence between Mann and Weinstein which would show they were "actually in a loving relationship."

A year after the alleged assault took place, Mann wrote "Miss you big guy!" in an email to Weinstein and another which said "Thank you for your unfailing support and kindness," Cheronis said.