By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker and the wife of California’s governor, testified on Monday that former film producer Harvey Weinstein raped her in 2005 when she was trying to build a career as a producer and actor.
On the witness stand in Los Angeles Superior Court, Siebel Newsom said she met Weinstein, now 70, at the Toronto Film Festival when she was 31 and had acted in some small film and TV roles.
Weeks later in California, Weinstein invited her to meet him at The Peninsula hotel in Beverly Hills for what she thought was a business meeting, she testified. She was surprised to learn that she was supposed to meet Weinstein, then one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, in his hotel suite, she said.
When she arrived, Weinstein had no interest in discussing her projects, Siebel Newsom said. He went to the bathroom, called her over and began masturbating in front of her, she said, before touching her breasts and becoming “aggressive.”
“I was scared. This was not why I came here,” she said, often breaking into tears. “I just remembered physically trying to back away.”
Siebel Newsom said Weinstein got her onto a bed, though she cannot recall if he carried or dragged her there. He then raped her, she said.
“He was just so big and so determined,” she said. “This was hell.”
Weinstein, the man who became the face of #MeToo allegations five years ago, is serving a 23-year prison sentence for sex crimes in New York. He is now on trial in Los Angeles on 11 charges of rape and sexual assault and has pleaded not guilty.
Siebel Newsom, who was identified in court as Jane Doe #4, is one of four women whose allegations are the basis of the Los Angeles charges against Weinstein. Prosecutors had earlier said there were five accusers.
Siebel Newsom’s attorney confirmed in October that Siebel Newsom would testify in the case.
Defense attorneys have argued that all of Weinstein’s sexual encounters were consensual and that his accusers willingly took part in a “casting couch” culture to further their careers in Hollywood.
At the time of the meeting with Siebel Newsom, she had not met her future husband, current California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and she said she did not tell him what happened until after allegations against Weinstein became public.
In cross-examination, Weinstein attorney Mark Werksman questioned Siebel Newsom about why her husband had accepted campaign donations from the producer. She said the governor returned the money after she told him about her encounter.
Weinstein, 70, was convicted of sexual misconduct in New York in February 2020. He was extradited from New York to a Los Angeles prison in July 2021.
In New York, Weinstein is appealing his conviction and 23-year prison sentence. He could face up to 140 years in prison if convicted on all of the charges in Los Angeles.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine. Editing by Gerry Doyle)