In a lengthy and graphic opening statement Wednesday, a prosecutor in Harvey Weinstein's trial painted the former film mogul as a serial sexual abuser who relentlessly preyed on women and used his industry clout to silence his alleged victims.
"The evidence will show that [this] man is a sexual predator and a rapist," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast told jurors in a crowded courtroom Wednesday morning, later adding Weinstein was "not just a titan of Hollywood, but a rapist."
"Finally, after all these years, these three women will have their voices heard," Hast said, referring to the two women whose allegations form the basis of the New York criminal trial and a third, "The Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra, who is expected to testify.
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty in the case and denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein's defense attorneys, said in his opening statement that prosecutors were presenting a "mirage," insisting that his client's sexual relationships were consensual.
The disgraced producer, who amassed power in the entertainment industry with Oscar-winning films such as "Pulp Fiction" and "Shakespeare in Love," looked straight ahead as Hast gave her opening statement. But he turned toward the jurors as the prosecutor described some of the most graphic allegations.
In her opening statement, Hast took jurors through Weinstein's alleged pattern of sexual predation and abuse in extensive detail. She said he repeatedly attempted to "lure" the three women before forcing himself on them against their will.
Hast recounted Sciorra's allegation of rape in the winter of 1993-94, some of which was chronicled by journalist Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker. She said Weinstein "left her emotionally and physically destroyed on the floor" following a violent assault in her Manhattan apartment.
In the late 1990s, Hast said, Sciorra and Weinstein were placed in neighboring rooms at a hotel in France during the Cannes Film Festival after she co-starred in a movie distributed by his former company, Miramax. Sciorra, the prosecutor said, "found him in his underwear with baby oil and a movie tape."
"It took 25 years until she could relive the nightmare and tell her story," Hast said of Sciorra, whose allegations were ruled too old to support criminal charges. "Harvey Weinstein remained a bigger figure in Hollywood, with power and connections to silence Annabella."
Weinstein, Hast said, "exploited" a power imbalance between himself and his alleged victims. The women, she said, were "no match for the power broker in Hollywood [that] Harvey Weinstein had become" by the mid-1990s, and during the trial each will "describe their fear, their shame and their humiliation."
In the defense's opening statement, Cheronis attempted to rebut Hast's depiction of Weinstein, telling the jury that "what you heard is not true." He also mentioned that the defense team has "hundreds" of emails from some of the accusers that he described as "friendly" and "loving," even after the alleged assaults took place.
In all, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The case in New York is being prosecuted by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who was in attendance during the opening statement Wednesday.