Arts and Entertainment
Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant to testify in sexual assault trial
Los Angeles, Oct. 26 (IANS): The judge in Harvey Weinstein’s case is allowing one additional woman to testify in the former Hollywood producer’s rape trial: one of Weinstein’s former assistants, Rowena Chiu.
Chiu will be a supporting, uncharged witness in the trial – meaning that the charges Weinstein faces in the case do not stem from her account. But, the trial will see supporting witness (known casually as “#MeToo witnesses”) take the stand to testify about their allegations, in order to establish a pattern of behaviour over the years, reports Variety.
Chiu previously came forward with allegations against Weinstein after the #MeToo movement. She worked as an assistant at Miramax in the ’90s and had only met Weinstein two times before she claims he attempted to rape her on a business trip in 1998 at the Venice Film Festival.
She has said that during a late-night meeting to discuss scripts, Weinstein asked her to massage him and then pushed her up against the bed and took off her tights, before she managed to escape the room. Weinstein denies the attack ever happened.
Shortly after the alleged incident, Chiu confided in her colleague, Zelda Perkins, who was then 25 years old. Together, the two women escalated the issue at Miramax, hired a lawyer, and were pressured into signing a NDA and received a monetary settlement. Within their settlement, they required Miramax to include clauses that they hoped would protect other women from his behaviour in the workplace.
Chiu stayed silent for more than 20 years, fearing the safety of her family. In 2019, she broke her silence in an op-ed for the New York Times. In 2020, Chiu broke her NDA to speak to Variety in a wide-ranging interview, following Weinstein’s conviction after a jury found him guilty of rape and sexual assault in his New York case, reports Variety.
Tuesday in court, Weinstein’s lawyers battled with prosecutors when arguing over whether Chiu should be allowed to testify or not. Weinstein’s attorney, Mark Werksman, told the judge that allowing for a fifth supporting witness would be “prejudicial” and “wide and vastly disproportionate” for the defendant.
The attorney alluded to a potential appeal down the road, stating that including Chiu in the trial will be a “real problem” for the court, should there be a conviction. Werksman said there will be “more evidence of uncharged conduct than charged conduct,” if Chiu was granted to testify. Ultimately, Judge Lisa B. Lench ruled that Chiu’s testimony would be more “probative” than “prejudicial”.
Weinstein is facing 11 counts of rape and sexual assault relating to five women.
However, in his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson made no mention of the fifth accuser, identified as Jane Doe 5.
Asked on Tuesday in the hallway of the courthouse if Jane Doe 5 is still part of the case, Thompson declined to comment. The D.A.’s office responded to Variety’s request for comment via email, stating: “While we have no comment at this time, our office is tirelessly ensuring all of the victims in this case receive justice.”