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How Harvey Weinstein faced his reckoning

Image copyright Getty Images As jurors were sworn in for Harvey Weinstein’s trial in New York, the judge told them in no uncertain terms that this case was not intended to be a referendum on the #MeToo movement as a whole. But the trial, which ended in him being convicted of rape and sexual assault,…

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As jurors were sworn in for Harvey Weinstein’s trial in New York, the judge told them in no uncertain terms that this case was not intended to be a referendum on the #MeToo movement as a whole. But the trial, which ended in him being convicted of rape and sexual assault, at times felt like one.

You may find some of the details in this article upsettingIt was a watershed moment. More than two years after allegations started to emerge about the Hollywood producer, some of his victims finally had their chance to be heard in court.Twelve jurors were tasked with ruling on sex charges against Weinstein, which he denied, in a trial that saw complex questions about consent and power dynamics on the stand. Jurors heard harrowing testimony from six women who, at times in tears, recounted their alleged assaults by the producer. One woman, who he was later found guilty of raping, at one point had to leave court after apparently suffering a panic attack on the stand. Weinstein’s high-powered defence team tried to flip the narrative and paint his accusers as the manipulators in the situation: women who used Weinstein for his industry prowess and later regretted and mischaracterised their sexual encounters as non-consensual. During weeks of testimony, jurors were witness to everything from claims about Weinstein’s genitals being deformed to nude photographs of the movie mogul himself. Every day journalists lined up, sometimes before sunrise, to claim a place on the press benches. Cameras were not allowed inside the trial at Manhattan Supreme Court, but the entrance was always lined with paparazzi scrambling to get daily shots and sound-bites from Weinstein, who had barely been seen in public for two years.Weinstein was a giant of the movie industry in every sense. Productions in his name became synonymous with success in Hollywood, with hundreds of Oscar nominations and 81 wins across his career. On stage, as he accepted awards, his large frame would often hulk over the stars of his films.The image of Weinstein at his trial was a very different one: once reportedly 300lb (136kg), he appeared frail and shuffled in to court most days with his back hunched over a metal walking frame.

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Weinstein (seen celebrating 1999 film Shakespeare in Love) used private investigators to probe accusers

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AFP

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Weinstein had been investigated in New York in 2015 over a groping claim, but was not prosecuted

The term #MeToo preceded Weinstein, but was propelled across the globe as allegations mounted against him in October 2017. Millions of people from all ages, backgrounds and nationalities used the hashtag to detail their experiences of harassment and abuse. Other celebrities were implicated but it was the scale of claims against Weinstein, then arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood, that proved the most shocking. More than 100 women came forward with allegations about him: alleging everything from aggressive outbursts to serious sexual assault. Stars at the very top of the industry, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, told of unwanted advances and upsetting interactions. Other women described, often in graphic detail, alleged rapes by the producer. Weinstein has consistently denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.Despite dozens of allegations against him, these were the first to make it to trial. In this time, Weinstein all but disappeared from public view. His marriage broke up and he is said to have sought treatment for sex addiction. His business partner brother described his behaviour as “sick and depraved” and their production company filed for bankruptcy.

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Weinstein and his former company reached a tentative $25m settlement with some accusers in December

During a rare interview, reportedly given without his lawyer’s knowledge in December, Weinstein complained of feeling like a “forgotten man” within Hollywood. Speaking just one day after three-hour surgery to ease compression on his spine, he told the New York Post that he deserved a pat on the back for everything he had done for women in film. He posed for photographs in a medical centre wearing jeans and a T-shirt, which he lifted to reveal a bandage on his back from which a tube drained blood into a container fixed to a metal walking aid.The walking frame took on a starring role during the trial when an argument broke out when prosecutors labelled it a “prop”. Weinstein’s lawyers even wanted his surgeon to testify to prove he wasn’t faking his injury to gain sympathy.On the first day, a group of high-profile accusers gathered outside the court to try to face him down. “You brought this upon yourself by hurting so many,” actress Rose McGowan said, addressing her alleged rapist through the media. “You have only yourself to blame.” Weinstein’s legal team made repeated appeals for the trial to be moved from Manhattan, citing the “carnival-like atmosphere” engulfing it. At one point, the defence complained after a flash-mob of protesters chanting lyrics including “The rapist is you” could be heard from inside the courtroom. At another, one of the world’s best known supermodels, Gigi Hadid, appeared as a potential juror.

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A Chilean anti-rape anthem, Un Violador en tu Camino (“A Rapist In Your Path”), was performed outside

About 2,000 people were reportedly summoned during the jury selection process and prosecutors accused Weinstein’s team of “systematically eliminating” young white women, resembling his victims, from serving on the jury. After almost two weeks, the group of 12 was finalised with seven men and five women.

Weinstein denied five felony criminal charges relating to allegations of sexual assault and rape. They related to incidents involving Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant who said he forced oral sex on her at his Manhattan apartment in 2006, and Jessica Mann, a one-time aspiring actress who said he raped her in a New York hotel room in 2013. Another alleged victim, Sopranos star Annabella Sciorra, alleged he had forced his way into her New York apartment and raped her some time in the winter of 1993/4. The amount of time passed since the alleged incident meant it fell outside of New York’s statute of limitations and could not be charged separately, but the judge ruled her testimony could be used to support the most serious charges on the indictment: for predatory sexual assault.Three other women were also permitted by the judge to appear as “prior bad acts” witnesses to help establish a pattern of behaviour and common motive. All were aspiring actresses in their 20s, hoping to break into the industry, when they described being assaulted by him.

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