Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial begins on heels of new charges

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(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK (AP) — A stooped Harvey Weinstein shuffled into court with a walker Tuesday for the start of jury selection at the disgraced Hollywood mogul’s sexual assault trial in New York, the morning after prosecutors in Los Angeles brought charges against him.

The judge ruled that jury selection would begin as scheduled Tuesday despite a request from Weinstein’s lawyer to grant a “cooling-off period” following the new charges. Scores of potential jurors were summoned for a selection process that could take weeks, given the heavy publicity surrounding the case and the way Weinstein has been cast as the chief villain of the #MeToo movement.

Weinstein, who recently underwent back surgery, is charged in New York with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing a sex act on another woman in the city in 2006. The 67-year-old former movie titan has said any sexual activity was consensual.

“In this great country, you are innocent until proven guilty,” his lawyer Donna Rotunno said Monday.

Judge James Burke denied the prosecution’s request to jail Weinstein after they argued the Los Angeles charges increased his incentive to flee. Burke did threaten to jail Weinstein for violating his order not to use his cell phone in the courtroom.

Once one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, Weinstein has now been accused of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct by dozens of women, from famous actresses to assistants at his former company. The allegations began surfacing publicly in October 2017 and sparked the #MeToo movement, as well as investigations in multiple places.

Los Angeles prosecutors charged Weinstein Monday with sexually assaulting two women there on successive nights during Oscar week in 2013.

Lawyers for Weinstein had no immediate comment on the new charges, though he has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the timing of the charges was unrelated to the New York trial. She said the case took more than two years to build because the women were reluctant to provide all the information necessary, and the filing happened on the first business day when all the necessary people could gather.

There is some connection between the cases, though: One of the Los Angeles accusers is expected to testify in the New York case to help prosecutors establish what they say was Weinstein’s pattern of forcing himself on young actresses and women trying to break into Hollywood.

Weinstein is expected to appear in court in California after his New York trial, Lacey said.

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