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In Harvey Weinstein trial — a #MeToo milestone — accusers' credibility will be key

James Queally, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

The accusations have come from more than 80 women across the U.S., Italy, France, England and Ireland, sparking criminal investigations in at least four cities.

Many of their stories share similar elements, spelling out something of a cadence to Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual abuse: A woman with a chance to network with Hollywood royalty. An invitation to a hotel room or apartment. An experience that would stay with them like a stain.

But while the litany of accusations against Weinstein since 2017 have all endured some level of scrutiny, legal experts say the former mogul's fate will likely come down to how well six accusers handle direct questioning in a Manhattan courtroom in the coming weeks, and whether a jury finds their version of events more credible than the defense offered by their alleged rapist.

Until now, Weinstein's accusers have been able to make their cases in private to detectives, through media reports or during news conferences where they were flanked by their attorneys and supporters.

That dynamic will change dramatically when the alleged victims have to face off with Weinstein and a defense team that has promised to launch aggressive cross-examinations.

"They're not going to be sitting there with a sympathetic reporter. It's going to be people who feel that it's their job to undermine anything and everything they say," said attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing two of the women expected to testify against Weinstein in New York. "They're going to do everything they can to challenge their credibility ... it's not going to be a pleasant experience."

 

A jury of seven men and five women is expected to hear opening arguments in the case Wednesday.

The former mogul is charged with first-degree rape, two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of first-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree rape. The charges stem from the alleged 2006 rape of Mimi Haleyi, a former employee of Weinstein's production company, and an alleged 2013 assault against an unidentified woman.

Actress Anabella Sciorra is expected to testify that Weinstein assaulted her in the early 1990s in New York, which would support the predatory sexual assault charges. Those require prosecutors to prove that the mogul committed a serious or violent sexual assault against more than one victim.

Three additional women will be allowed to testify to the pattern of Weinstein's alleged predatory behavior, including an Italian model whose allegation that Weinstein attacked her in a Beverly Hills hotel in 2013 is at the center of criminal charges filed against him in Los Angeles County earlier this month.

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