Opening statements in Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault and rape trial are set to begin Wednesday in New York as the movie mogul faces the possibility of life behind bars.
State prosecutors say Weinstein, 67, raped a woman in a New York hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performed oral sex on another woman in 2006 at his Manhattan apartment. He is charged with five felony counts: first-degree rape, third-degree rape, first-degree criminal sexual act, and two counts of predatory sexual assault.
Several other women who say he assaulted them will also testify in the trial. “The Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra is expected to testify toward the predatory sexual assault charges as prosecutors seek to prove Weinstein committed serious crimes against multiple victims.
In addition, three other “prior bad acts” witnesses are expected to accuse Weinstein of assault, as prosecutors argue he had a pattern of sexual abuse.
But Weinstein’s team of attorneys deny that there was any non-consensual sexual activity.
Their opening statements are expected to take aim at the testimony of the women who form the crux of the case against him. In a preview of their arguments on Tuesday, his defense attorneys said they had “dozens and dozens and dozens” of emails between the accusers and Weinstein that they say show “loving words” toward him.
The opening statements arrive more than two years after The New York Times and The New Yorker published stories quoting women who accused Weinstein of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. The outpouring of allegations that followed sparked the #MeToo movement that seeks to bring attention to and stop sexual violence.
Weinstein was fired from his namesake company and disgraced in the public eye, and he was arrested and charged in May 2018. Still, the case against him is uncertain and is likely to rise or fall largely based on the strength of the women’s testimony.
Of the charges, the counts of predatory sexual assault are the most serious. Weinstein could be sentenced to 10 years to life in prison if convicted.