Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial has begun, with the film producer facing up to life in prison as a possible outcome.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty on charges of assaulting two women in New York and faces up to life in prison for the more serious charge, predatory sexual assault, according to Reuters.
Former production assistant Mimi Haleyi claimed that she was assaulted in 2006 and prosecutors say the second assault, on an unnamed woman, took place in 2013.
Weinstein was shown “limping” into the courtroom on Monday morning by the Daily News, who said he was “leaning on a walker and need[ed] help getting up stairs.” At the same time, protesters were berating him. “Thank god your mother is not here to see this,” one protester yelled.
More than 80 women in total have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing dating back decades.
These allegations helped fuel the #MeToo movement, which has led to hundred of women all accusing various men of various types of wrongdoing – some valid, others, not so much.
“If you’ve ever been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” actress Alyssa Milano tweeted after Weinstein was accused of wrongdoing by the New York Times and The New Yorker Magazine in 2017.
In 2019, the #MeToo hashtag was viewed 42 billion times.
Weinstein has claimed that all encounters were consensual.
Jury selection is expected to begin on Tuesday in Manhattan, following a pre-trial conference on Monday. The trial is taking place during the heart of Hollywood awards season, which got off to a raucous start last night after Ricky Gervais lambasted Hollywood elite at the Golden Globes.
Tina Tchen, the president of Time’s Up Foundation, which was founded in the wake of the Weinstein allegations, said: “First and foremost, this trial is important for the dozens of women who have experienced sexual assault or harassment at the hands of Harvey Weinstein.”
A spokesperson for Weinstein claimed that “the two women in the criminal case had long-term relationships with Weinstein”.
Finding an impartial jury will be a challenge, experts say. Lawyers will likely ask potential jurors about their knowledge of the case, their work history and whether they have been victims of sexual assault themselves.
Even if Weinstein is acquitted, he is still facing a mountain of legal issues. At least 29 women in the U.S., Canada and Europe have brought civil claims against him. The parties are in the midst of trying to work out a $25 million settlement to resolve most of the civil cases. The potential settlement is said to not require Weinstein to contribute personally or admit wrongdoing.