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11 things to know about the Harvey Weinstein trial, which starts today

Everything we know so far about the explosive Harvey Weinstein trial, which kicks off today.

11 things to know about the Harvey Weinstein trial, which starts today
[Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images]

In the past two years, Harvey Weinstein has gone from a powerful, if diminished, Hollywood overlord to a global pariah and avatar for predatory men in every industry.

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So far, the 67-year old former producer has not been convicted of any of the sexual misconduct charges for which he’s been accused. (More than 80 women in total have made allegations about incidents that span decades.) Weinstein’s status may soon change, as the criminal trial against the disgraced producer kicks off today in New York.

It was Weinstein’s downfall, wrought by Pulitzer Prize-winning exposés in The New York Times and The New Yorker, that ushered in the #MeToo movement and a new era of accountability for predatory men. The Weinstein trial may end up serving as a (further) bellwether for what that accountability actually looks like in the most extreme cases.

In advance of the trial, 25 of Weinstein’s accusers, including high-profile women like Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette, wrote in a joint statement: “The world will be watching as Harvey Weinstein walks into court to stand trial for a fraction of the egregious crimes he has committed.”

Here are 11 things to know about the trial ahead.

  • The trial, which takes place in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, is expected to last approximately six weeks.
  • Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to felony charges that he raped a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a second woman in 2006. He has been out on $1 million bail since May.
  • He faces a maximum of life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, felony predatory sexual assault, of which he is facing four counts. He is also up against one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree, one count of first-degree rape,  and one count of third-degree rape.
  • Weinstein settled a civil suit with 30 of this accusers this past December, for $25m.
  • The players in the criminal trial include lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, who has something to prove considering Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance’s checkered history of suspicious leniency toward Weinstein, and Weinstein trial attorneys Arthur Aidala and Donna Rotunno, the latter of whom has claimed she has proof that the sexual activity in question was consensual. New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke, a former prosecutor, is presiding over the trial.
  • It remains uncertain which of Weinstein’s accusers are participating in the trial. Judge Burke has made public scant few court documents so far, in an effort to keep potential jurors impartial.
  • Media outlets did not take the information-fog lightly; more than a dozen major publications challenged the sealing of the court record.
  • Cameras are forbidden from taping the trial, although a limited number of journalists will be on hand to cover it.
  • According to The Hollywood Reporter, three “prior bad act” witnesses, including actor Annabella Sciorra, are also expected to take the stand, along with Weinstein Co. production assistant Mimi Haleyi and an as yet unknown third accuser. The idea is to show “propensity evidence” that reveals Weinstein acted in a pattern, the strategy that finally helped convict Bill Cosby.
  • One accuser who will certainly not be participating is actor Lucia Evans, whose allegation was marred when the lead detective in it was investigated for witness tampering.
  • It remains unclear whether Weinstein himself will testify. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “most observers believe the decision will be made during the trial, depending on whether Weinstein’s attorneys determine his testimony is necessary.”
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