By ANDREW DALTON, AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A prosecutor told jurors Monday that the stories of the women who will testify that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted them tell eerily similar stories of themselves as aspiring young women who were cornered in hotel rooms by a man who at the time was the definition of Hollywood power.
“Each of these women came forward independently of each other, and none of them knew each other,” Assistant District Attorney Paul Thompson said during his opening statement at Weinstein’s trial in Los Angeles. .
Weinstein, Thompson said, dominated his power over them, talking about the A-list female actors he made a career out of before becoming aggressive.
Thompson released a video presentation showing composite photos of the four women, with quotes from previous testimony displayed. Most were aspiring actors. One was an aspiring screenwriter who thought she was going to pitch a script to “the most powerful man in Hollywood” at the time, Thompson said, referring to Weinstein. One was a masseuse with a famous clientele of actors and athletes, whom Weinstein suggested could write a book for the publishing arm of his business before later cornering her in the bathroom.
All will testify that Weinstein ignored clear signs that the women were not consenting, the prosecutor said, including “their shaking bodies, their crying, their recoiling, their refusal to say ‘no.'” He said he assaulted a woman after she showed him pictures of her children in an attempt to get him arrested.
Weinstein denied any non-consensual sex and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was brought to court on Monday by deputies in wheelchairs, dressed in black suits and blue ties. Before the jurors entered, he climbed into a chair at the defense table with his attorneys and watched the prosecution presentation from there.
His attorney is due to make his opening statement on Monday afternoon.
It is expected to be followed by testimony from the first of the accusers, an Italian model and actor who claims Weinstein raped her at his Los Angeles hotel in 2013.
However, confusion arose in the courtroom when Thompson, in his opening statement, made no mention of an accuser who was due to testify just last week.
Weinstein was charged with 11 counts in total, but four of those counts – including two counts of rape and two of sexual assault – involved the woman who was not included in the opening.
The district attorney’s office did not explain why the fifth accuser was not mentioned in Thompson’s opening statement.
Already serving a 23-year sentence for a conviction in New York, the 70-year-old movie mogul now faces trial in the city where he was once a colossus during Hollywood’s awards season. The four accusers who will testify in the case are expected to be identified only as Jane Doe. Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an actress and documentary filmmaker married to California Governor Gavin Newsom, is among the accusers.
Siebel Newsom was the first accuser Thompson portrayed in her opening, saying that while she seems to be in a powerful place now, at the time of her assault she was like the other women targeted by Weinstein.
“Seventeen years ago, when she met the defendant in 2005, she was a helpless actress trying to make her way in Hollywood,” Thompson said.
In an attempt to avoid potential defense strategies, Thompson told jurors they would hear from a psychologist who would dispel rape myths. One of the most important is the idea that a victim of sexual assault would no longer have contact with her attacker.
Many accusers had contact and even started relationships with Weinstein in the years after their assault. Siebel Newsom sent him e-mails. The masseuse worked for him again. Thompson said the jury will hear that’s not unusual in the circumstances.
Four other women will testify at trial that Weinstein sexually assaulted them, although their accusations did not lead to criminal charges. In his opening presentation and a possible clue to his trial strategy, Thompson paired each of them with one of four other accusers based on the similarity of their stories.
The Associated Press does not normally name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they have agreed to be named publicly, as Siebel Newsom did through his attorney.
The trial opened two weeks ago with jury selection, five years after women’s stories about him gave massive momentum to the #MeToo movement.
Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: twitter.com/andyjamesdalton
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