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Melinda Henneberger: Harvey Weinstein lets out a belly laugh at LA rape trial as his attorney ridicules victim

Melinda Henneberger, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Op Eds

Those of you who have been writing to me to say how sorry you feel for poor Harvey Weinstein — as it turns out, not all of the former producer’s defenders are on his payroll — will be relieved to hear that he is bearing up admirably under the strain of his second rape trial.

In fact, Weinstein could not contain his glee in court in Los Angeles on Thursday. As his attorney, Alan Jackson, ridiculed one of his four accusers’ testimony during closing arguments, the defendant let out a full-on belly laugh.

The woman had testified that Weinstein seemed to have locked her in his hotel suite bathroom to keep her from bolting. And hotel bathrooms, it’s true, do not lock from the outside. So either she had a) panicked as Weinstein held the door shut b) panicked as he didn’t hold the door shut or c) is telling an incredibly stupid lie. Because, again, we all know that hotel bathrooms don’t lock from the outside.

I’m going with a or b, since a liar in the arts would you’d think be a little more artful in crafting the perfect story.

But as a connoisseur of high-quality entertainment, Weinstein naturally relished Jackson’s derision of what he said was this woman’s clear fabrication.

And either because Weinstein is the sociopath that I see him as or the unfairly pilloried old-school king of the casting couch that some Bee readers tell me he is, the convicted sex offender laughed and smiled at other times in court on Thursday, too. This was a man who, at least for the moment, was getting what he paid for.

The case will go to the jury on Friday, and then of course it will be up to its members to decide whether the prosecution made its case. Whether, in essence, they believe the women who testified that Weinstein violated them, or the defense team that spent the last two months questioning how these women could possibly have gone on smiling and showing up, networking and trying to get acting jobs, if they’d really been assaulted.

The defense — sorry, Hollywood — was nothing at all new or creative: Liars all, Weinstein’s team said, his accusers were either consensual sex pals trading themselves for the promise of a part, or fabulists just trying to get in on the eternal glory of #MeToo.

One accuser is an obvious liar, Jackson said, because she said Weinstein had unzipped her dress, when it really had a button instead of a zipper.

The prosecution’s closing argument was less off-the-rack. In answering the defense team’s suggestion that no woman who’d really been raped could possibly carry on with her responsibilities or work, prosecutor Marlene Martinez spoke directly to the women on the jury.

“How many of us,” she asked, “have had terrible, terrible cramps, yet we still get up and we still go to work? How many of us have been pregnant and extremely nauseous, feeling horrible, yet we get up, we put our clothes on, we put our makeup on, and we go do what we have to do?”

 

“This isn’t shocking,” she said of one accuser, “that she got up and went to events. We do it every single day.”

As throughout the trial, the defense was particularly hard on Weinstein’s most prominent accuser, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who was labeled a “bimbo” in opening arguments.

In his closing, Jackson called her highly emotional testimony the “theatrical, overly dramatized performance” of someone who “cannot square in her mind the idea that she’s a successful, well educated, well-bred, refined woman who had consensual sex with Harvey Weinstein in exchange for opportunity and access” as a young actress.

The problem with this argument is that Siebel Newsom didn’t have anything to square; no one knew any of this. She only came forward to support other victims, incorrectly believing that her own case was beyond the statute of limitations. And what did she stand to gain? Nothing. On the contrary, she had to know she’d be condemned by those in agreement with my Weinstein-defending correspondents.

“Weinstein was a shrewd man who used his success and power in film to seduce women,” one of them wrote. “He was an overweight out-of-shape man who was certainly not physically menacing; therefore, women could have easily walked out of any situation that became uncomfortable, but none of the accusers did.”

“Your defense of Jennifer Siebel Newsom,” this man wrote, “minimizes the traumatic and devastating effect a real rape victim experiences when they’re violently raped. But what I find disgustingly offensive is that Weinstein, a man I’m not proud of, was sentenced to 23 years in prison, and who has lost his power, the little dignity he might have had, his legacy, his fortune and figuratively his life, but for certain people that’s not enough, they want more. They want to put a spike on the electric chair. It’s disgraceful.”

Another wrote, “I read your article dear and am disgusted — with the Bimbo’s sleazy lies! What sort of business meetings typically occur in hotel rooms? So sick of these bulls–t lies by sleazy bimbos wanting to give, er get a-head in their careers!”

Then there’s this guy: “I don’t believe any of those social climbing gold diggers that slept their way to the top.”

And I shouldn’t leave out the one who described Siebel Newsom as nervous “as a ho in church.” All of these men and more signed their names.

Team Harvey lives. And pretty soon, we’ll know how well its woman-hating arguments played in one Los Angeles courtroom.

©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Visit at sacbee.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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