LOS ANGELES: Disgraced US movie titan Harvey Weinstein was convicted Monday of sexually assaulting a woman a decade ago, in what prosecutors said was part of his “reign of terror” over aspiring young actresses in Hollywood.
A jury in Los Angeles deliberated for two weeks before finding the “Shakespeare in Love” producer guilty of one count of rape and two counts of sexual assault against the woman, who was not publicly named.
They did not reach a verdict on several other charges in a trial that had involved accusations by four women.
Weinstein is already serving a 23-year sentence after being convicted of sex crimes in New York.
Rumors of Weinstein’s impropriety had circulated in Hollywood for years, but his position at the apex of Tinseltown meant few were prepared to challenge him.
That all changed in 2017 with the publication of bombshell allegations against him, ushering in the #MeToo movement and opening the floodgates for women to speak out against sexual violence in the workplace.
The lengthy West Coast trial heard graphic descriptions of encounters between the once-powerful producer and women who were trying to make their way in the world of movies.
Prosecutors painted a picture of a predatory ogre, who for years used his physical and professional prowess to rape and abuse women with impunity.
His victims were left terrorized and afraid for their careers if they spoke out against a man who dominated Tinseltown for decades, according to prosecutors.
Weinstein, 70, was convicted on Monday of three of the seven counts he was facing — forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by a foreign object. All three of those counts related to a victim referred to only as Jane Doe #1, with the crimes occurring in February 2013.
The eight-man, four-woman jury acquitted him of one charge of sexual battery by restraint involving another woman.
They did not reach a verdict on charges of sexual battery by restraint of a third woman, and were unable to reach a verdict on charges of rape and forced oral copulation against a fourth — identified by her lawyers as Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench declared a mistrial on those counts.
Weinstein faces up to 18 years in prison for the counts on which he was convicted, but aggravating factors could increase that to 24 years.
Attorneys will be back in court on Tuesday for arguments as to sentencing.
The “Pulp Fiction” producer had denied all the charges, with his attorney seeking to portray accusers either as liars who never had sex with his client, or as women who willingly lay on the casting couch, swapping sex for a leg up in the notoriously competitive world of filmmaking.
– ‘Despicable behaviour’ –
Weinstein, who was credited with making the careers of household names like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, used his power to prey on and silence women, said prosecutor Marlene Martinez.
The jury heard testimony from women who said they had been tricked into being alone with Weinstein in his hotel room.
Several described how they had begged him to stop as he forced himself on them, made them perform oral sex on him, or watch him masturbate, sometimes as he groped them.
“We know the despicable behavior the defendant engaged in,” Martinez told the jury in her closing argument.
“He thought he was so powerful that people would… excuse his behavior.
“‘That’s just Harvey being Harvey. That’s just Hollywood.’ And for so long that’s what everyone did. Everyone just turned their heads.”
“It is time for the defendant’s reign of terror to end,”
“It is time for the kingmaker to be brought to justice.”
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