Harvey Weinstein abused his power to corner women in hotel rooms and force himself upon them, according to the prosecution at his trial in Los Angeles.
The disgraced film producer is facing 11 charges of rape and forced oral sex relating to allegations made by women who say they were assaulted between 2004 and 2015. He has pleaded not guilty.
Accusers of Weinstein ignited the #MeToo movement more than five years ago and he is two years into a 23-year prison sentence following his convictions for rape and sexual assault by a New York court in 2020.
The Los Angeles trial was widely viewed as symbolic – but it has assumed far greater significance in light of Weinstein being granted an appeal against his New York convictions.
If he wins that appeal, his future freedom is likely to be decided by a jury in Los Angeles.
They heard an opening statement by the prosecution, delivered by Paul Thompson, which detailed disturbing allegations against the 70-year-old.
He began with a series of quotes from the alleged victims.
Some described the victims’ fear of Weinstein’s size.
“Part of me was thinking should I just make a run for it, but he’s a big guy. He’s big. He’s broad. He’s overweight. He’s domineering.”
Another series of quotations was presented of the victims’ pleading for Weinstein to stop.
“Please stop, I don’t want this. What are you doing?”, one quotation read.
“I was trying to convince him that it’s not gonna happen … I was like please, I have kids,” said another.
“I told him to stop. I told him to leave the bathroom. And he didn’t. He just kept going towards me,” read a third.
Mr Thompson says the accusers “feared that he could crush their careers if they reported what he had done”.
Three of the alleged victims are remaining anonymous – they are Jane Doe 1, a model and actress who lived in Italy at the time; Jane Doe 2, a 23-year-old model and aspiring screenwriter; and Jane Doe 3, a licensed massage therapist.
Another of the alleged victims, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, has waived her anonymity.
She is now a documentary filmmaker and wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.
But 17 years ago, when she met Weinstein, she was a “powerless actor trying to make her way in Hollywood”, the prosecution says.
Mrs Newsom will testify that she met Weinstein at the Toronto International Film Festival and later invited him to a party attended by many others at her home in West Hollywood.
Weinstein then invited Mrs Newsom to “discuss her career” at the Peninsula Hotel, the court heard.
She sat on the couch and awaited Weinstein, who entered the room wearing business attire with five or six other people.
“But to her surprise, the aides quickly left,” Mr Thompson, for the prosecution, said.
“Harvey Weinstein went to the bathroom, then he summons her. She goes to him and finds him in a bathrobe.
“She was shocked, and her mind raced,” Mr Thompson said, alleging that Weinstein forced Mrs Newsom onto the bed, “crying and shaking”.
“She couldn’t get any words out because of her fear,
“Weinstein told her to ‘relax, this is going to make her feel better’.”
The prosecution alleges Weinstein then forced her into oral sex and then raped her.
In total, eight women will testify that they were sexually assaulted by Weinstein.
The trial is expected to last another six weeks.