No one on earth assumed attorneys for Harvey Weinstein would treat any of the legions of women who’ve accused him of rape with kindness or even a modicum of respect. These men have deployed, as expected, the kind of slut-shaming, victim-blaming, good old-fashioned misogynistic arguments characteristic of a convicted rapist’s legal representation. However, their vitriolic enthusiasm for ravaging one accuser, in particular, is a bit curious.
Weinstein’s second sex abuse trial has proved an exceptionally torturous eight weeks for filmmaker, first lady of California, and Jane Doe #4 Jennifer Siebel Newsom, thanks to vicious accusations and unnecessarily cruel commentary from his defense attorneys, Alan Jackson and Mark Werksman. Their castigation of Siebel Newsom began in opening statements, when they described her as “just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood,” and continued through weeks of testimony, cross-examination, and this week’s closing arguments.
“Jane Doe #4 cannot square in her mind the idea that she’s a successful, well-educated, well-bred, refined woman who had consensual sex with Harvey Weinstein in exchange for opportunity and access,” Jackson told the court.
“She may regret the transactional sex, but regret is far from rape,” he continued. “She made a decision to have a relationship with Harvey and she benefited from it...That’s the definition of transactional sex, and she hates it.”
In addition to implying Siebel Newsom lied, the attorneys also likened her emotional testimony to a production.“It was a theatrical, overly dramatized performance,” Jackson said. “What you saw was an act. A pretty good act, but it had no basis in truth.”
Throughout the proceedings, Weinstein’s defense went to great lengths to diminish Siebel Newsom’s allegations against their client, even going so far as to prompt her to detail and demonstrate an orgasm she said she’d faked to escape him. “I could tell he just needed, he was so determined, just so scary, just all about him and his pleasure, his need for satisfaction, so I just did it to make it stop,” she told the court of the alleged assault.
Siebel Newsom met the powerful producer at the Toronto Film Festival in 2005, when she was working as an actor. Weinstein, as detailed by scores of other accusers, invited her for a meeting at a hotel to discuss her film projects. Once she arrived, Siebel Newsom said, he dragged her to the bedroom and raped her. “He was asserting himself and tried to tell me that he—he mentioned several actresses names—he tried to tell me that this was the industry, and in a way, like, threaten me,” she testified. When asked by a prosecutor why she remained in the suite and didn’t immediately attempt to flee, she replied: “Because you don’t say no to Harvey Weinstein. He could make or ruin your career. I thought I was going to discuss my projects.”
Once under cross-examination, she buckled beneath the defense’s relentless questioning—particularly when she was asked exactly how she “indicated her pleasure” during Weinstein’s assault: “This is not When Harry Met Sally. I’m not doing that.” Their lengthy back-and-forth—aided by binders of email correspondence between Siebel Newsom and Weinstein—only intensified and was often punctuated by her sobs. “I feel like you are jumping around,” she said at one point. Werksman replied, “Well, I feel like I’m asking you questions, and you’re not answering.” Later, Siebel Newsom took a deep breath and told the court that Werksman’s questioning made her tired, to which he retorted: “Oh, are you too tired to testify?” She then broke down and said, “Sir, what you’re doing today is exactly what he did to me.”
Jackson revisited the latter exchange during closing statements: “How dare you say something like that,” he said. “She dares to equate that to violent rape. There are women out there who have been violently raped. She contrived this entire performance to paint herself a victim for choices she’s made.”
He also referenced their continued correspondence after the alleged assault. Siebel Newsom argued it was purely to aid in professional advancement and that she’d put the more traumatic memories of the assault “in a box.” Meanwhile, the attorneys claimed she’d simply capitalized on a connection to Weinstein to become a filmmaker, further her husband’s political career, and now, become a figure of the Me Too movement.
“She sought his company over and over,” Jackson told the court. “She changes details when it looks bad for her or says she doesn’t remember. Everything [regarding her memory] is still ‘in a box.’ I don’t know where that box is but maybe she will find the truth there!”
While the attorneys certainly took aim at all of the women who testified in the trial—whether as a Jane Doe or a prior bad act witness—and argued that all their experiences with Weinstein were consensual, Siebel Newsom has undoubtedly taken the brunt of the attacks. This is likely the case because she’s one of the most high-profile accusers in this trial. Still, as a survivor who’s been similarly maligned, it’s been as excruciating to watch as I’m certain it was to endure.
Jury deliberations are set to begin on Friday.