An attorney for Harvey Weinstein at his Los Angeles rape and sexual assault trial told jurors Thursday that prosecutors' case relies entirely on asking them to trust women whose testimony showed they were untrustworthy.
“‘Take my word for it’ — five words that sum up the entirety of the prosecution’s case,” Jackson told jurors in his closing argument.
The 70-year-old former movie magnate is charged with raping and sexually assaulting two women and committing sexual battery against two others.
Jackson argued that two of the women were entirely lying about their encounters, while the other two took part in “transactional sex” for the sake of career advancement that was “100% consensual.” But after the #MeToo explosion around Weinstein with stories in the New York Times and the New Yorker — which Jackson called a “dogpile” on his client — the women became regretful.
“Regret is not rape,” Jackson told jurors several times.
Weinstein is already serving a 23-year sentence for a conviction in New York for rape and sexual assault against two women.
Prosecutors in Los Angeles completed their closing argument earlier Thursday, after giving most of it Wednesday, and urged jurors to complete Weinstein’s takedown by convicting him in California.
“It is time for the defendant’s reign of terror to end,” Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez said. “It is time for the kingmaker to be brought to justice.”
In his closings, Weinstein's attorney urged jurors to look past the emotion of the testimony the four women gave, and focus on the factual evidence.
“‘Believe us because we’re mad, believe us because we cried,’” Jackson said jurors were being asked to do. “Well, fury does not make fact. And tears do not make truth.”
He was especially adamant about the tearful and dramatic testimony of Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker and the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said Weinstein raped her in a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2005.
“It was a theatrical, overly dramatized performance,” he said. “What you saw was an act.”
Siebel Newsom was one of the women who engaged in “transactional sex,” Jackson argued. “She knows it, and she hates it.”
He said the testimony was also dishonest, as when Siebel Newsom testified that she bumped into Weinstein occasionally after the assault, including an encounter at the 2007 film festival, which left her “triggered.” Jackson pointed to an email where Siebel Newsom had actually sought out the meetup with Weinstein.
Jackson told the jurors Weinstein was never even in the hotel room with the other woman he is charged with raping, an Italian model who in court went by Jane Doe 1. She testified that he attacked her after showing up uninvited to her hotel room during a Los Angeles film festival in 2013.
“Jane Doe 1 is lying. Period,” Jackson said, pointing to the absence of evidence putting Weinstein at the scene. “Not a single witness can corroborate that Harvey Weinstein ever walked through that door.”
He showed photos of Jane Doe 1 smiling as she interacted with director Quentin Tarantino on the following night of the festival, with Weinstein sitting just a few feet away.
“This is not consistent with her having suffered the violence she suffered just hours before,” the lawyer said.
Earlier on the night those pictures were taken, according to the allegations, Weinstein trapped model Lauren Young in a hotel bathroom, groped her and masturbated in front of her during what was supposed to be a meeting about a script she'd written.
Jackson said the meeting was real but she had fabricated most of the rest, focusing on what he said were the impossible details of her being locked in the bathroom by a woman on the outside, and the room having a sliding door where photos proved it didn't.
“None of it makes sense, because she's making it up,” Jackson said.
The Associated Press does not generally name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly or agree to be identified through their lawyers, as those named in this story have done. All of the women Weinstein is charged with assaulting are going by Jane Doe in court.
The prosecution is set to give its final rebuttal Friday morning, after which jurors will begin deliberations.