Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial began in Manhattan on Wednesday, more than two years after women began sharing their stories. More than 80 women eventually came forward, accusing Weinstein of misconduct, including rape, sparking a #MeToo movement that swept the entire country.
He is pleading not guilty. If convicted, Weinstein faces life behind bars for rape. Seven men and five women are hearing the case, which involved five charges levied by two women. Four other accusers—including actress Annabella Sciorra—are expected to testify.
Prosecutors are painting him as a monster who used his power to control women. “They will each describe their fear, their shame and their humiliation – the struggle each went through to push their trauma down and show a brave face to the world,” prosecutor Meghan Hast said in her opening statement.
Hast described Sciorra’s alleged encounter with Weinstein in her apartment: “She told him to get out. She told him no. But Harvey Weinstein was undeterred,”
In another incident, Weinstein allegedly injected himself with an erection drug before raping one of his accusers in a hotel room in 2013. Hast said Weinstein became “more demanding and violent” during their encounters, leading to a March 18, 2013, incident where “the defendant decided he wanted more and forcibly took it.”
Weinstein “ordered her onto the bed and disappeared for a moment into the bathroom,” Hast said, then “came back out, got on top of her and raped her.”
Hast said after the alleged rape she was “distraught, disgusted and horrified,” ran into the bathroom and “saw a needle in the garbage can.”
“She looked at the label of the wrapper and later Googled it,” learning that it was for an erectile dysfunction drug, Hast said.
In 2018, Weinstein’s personal assistant, Sandheep Rehal, filed a sex discrimination suit against him, saying he forced her to manage his stockpile of erection drugs. She later reportedly settled.
Weinstein’s team, meanwhile, plans to show “dozens and dozens and dozens of loving emails to Mr. Weinstein” from alleged victims. His lawyer Damon Cheronis has said some of the women “also bragged about being in a sexual relationship with him.”
Opening statements ended with the defense team claiming the jury was “poisoned” by prosecutors’ depiction of Weinstain as a "predatory monster." Defense attorney Arthur Aidala called on the judge to restart the trial with a new jury. Judge James Burke denied the motion.
OUTSIDE THE COURT
As opening arguments went on inside, outside, dozens of alleged victims shared their stories and support. Dubbed the Silence Breakers, accusers launched an Instagram handle @_NoLongerSilent Wednesday to coincide with the opening of the trial.
The post reads, in part: “We stand in solidarity with Annabella Sciorra, Mimi Haleyi, Dawn Dunning and all of the women who will courageously testify against Harvey Weinstein in court. For decades, Weinstein wielded his power to mentally, physically and professionally abuse and silence women with impunity.”
They continued: “Starting today, he will finally be forced to face his accusers and reckon with the consequences of his monstrous crimes. Whether we are in the court room or supporting our fellow Silence Breakers from around the world, we are all in awe of their selflessness and bravery. We will continue to support them by speaking out and telling our stories until this serial predator is brought to justice.”