NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — More than two years after a wave of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein ushered in the #MeToo movement, the disgraced movie mogul faces another reckoning: a criminal trial that could him put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
Jury selection is scheduled to start this week in New York City in a case involving allegations that Weinstein raped one woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.
It is the only criminal case to arise from dozens of allegations against the Oscar-winning film producer. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and maintains any sexual activity was consensual.
Hunched over a using a walker, the 67-year-old entered the courthouse Monday for pre-trial motions.
“We are here hoping to pick and find a fair jury, and we believe that that’s going to be possible,” Weinstein defense attorney Donna Rotunno told reporters after the hearing. “We’re going to continue to press on and remind everyone that in this great country you are innocent until proven guilty.”
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, the defense had requested the jury be sequestered, but that motion was denied.
Gloria Allred represents the alleged victim in the 2006 incident.
“We are looking for accountability, and that’s really what is important,” Allred said Monday. “Then, it will be for the jury to decide.”
At least one Hollywood actress is expected to testify against Weinstein, and several other accusers have said they plan to attend the trial, which could last about four weeks once a jury is picked.
Outside the courthouse Monday, a group of so-called “Silence Breakers” spoke about their allegations of misconduct against Weinstein.
“He looked like a very broken man,” actress Rosanna Arquette said.
“I think he’s taken some good acting tips,” actress Rose McGowan added.
“He seemed cowardly. He wouldn’t look at us, wouldn’t make eye contact,” another woman added. “Nothing has changed. He’s a coward.”
“The trial means so much to so many, but it will mean the most to the brave women testifying and to all of us ‘Silence Breakers,’” said McGowan.
“This predatory behavior went on for years behind the scenes, unchecked,” another accuser added. “Today, we stand together.”
Weinstein’s lawyer has argued the case is weak and said she plans to aggressively cross-examine the accusers.
“Just because a woman makes a claim doesn’t mean it’s true,” Rotunno said last month. “Just because Mr. Weinstein has been accused of a crime, that does not mean he’s guilty.”
Prosecutors have not commented publicly on the case since around the time of Weinstein’s arrest and initial court appearances in 2018.
In a statement issued at the time, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. praised the “extraordinary courage” of Weinstein’s accusers and said he was confident jurors would reject defense attacks on their credibility.
As in that case, prosecutors are angling to make Weinstein’s trial a referendum on his behavior with women over many decades, not just in the two instances that led to criminal charges. Prosecutors had charged Weinstein with assaulting a third woman but later dropped that charge after it was alleged that a police detective had coached a corroborating witness.
The most serious charges against Weinstein, two counts of predatory sexual assault that carry a mandatory life sentence, require that prosecutors demonstrate Weinstein had a habit of violating women.
For that, prosecutors plan to call actress Annabella Sciorra, who says Weinstein forced himself inside her Manhattan apartment in 1993 or 1994 and raped her after she starred in a film for his movie studio. But they also want jurors to hear from some of the more than 75 women who have come forward publicly to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault.
Weinstein remains free on bail, though it was doubled last month to $2 million paid through a bail bondsman after prosecutors said he repeatedly mishandled his electronic monitoring equipment, leaving him untracked for hours at a time.
He has been spotted in recent months hobnobbing at a Manhattan nightclub, getting jeered at an actors showcase and eating at an ice cream parlor. After surgery last month to relieve back pain from an August car crash, he gave a self-pitying interview to the New York Post from his hospital room.
“I feel like the forgotten man,’’ Weinstein said. “I made more movies directed by women and about women than any filmmaker, and I’m talking about 30 years ago. I’m not talking about now when it’s vogue. I did it first! I pioneered it!”
Picking a jury for Weinstein’s trial could take a while, in part because immense media attention on the case could mean some potential jurors already have their minds made up. Weinstein’s lawyers tried to get the trial moved out of Manhattan, but a court rejected that.
On Monday afternoon, Weinstein learned he’ll soon have to answer to another judge in California. Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey alleges he raped a woman in February 2013, and the next day sexually assaulted another at a Beverly Hills hotel, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
“We believe the evidence will show the defendant used his power and influence to gain power and access to his victims and then committed violent crimes against them,” Lacey said.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)