Harvey Weinstein’s Prosecution Takes a Page from the Bill Cosby Playbook
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Julián Castro endorses Elizabeth Warren, men benefit from mentoring relationships with women, and the Harvey Weinstein trial recalls another infamous case of the #MeToo era. Have a lovely Tuesday.
- A page from the Cosby playbook. Harvey Weinstein appeared in a Manhattan courthouse on Monday to finally stand trial for sexual assault charges two years after accusations against him ignited the #MeToo movement. Day 1 of the long-awaited public airing of the once-powerful film producer’s alleged misconduct dealt a blow to his defense. The judge ruled Weinstein’s lawyers can’t call as a witness a detective who is accused of keeping key evidence from prosecutors—a tactic that sought to undermine the integrity of the New York Police Department investigation of the one-time movie mogul.
Previews of the trial focused on such legal mechanics that have restricted the scope of the trial. More than 80 women have publicly accused Weinstein of misconduct, yet prosecutors in New York have charged him with the rape and sexual assault of only two women, former assistant Mimi Haleyi and an unnamed woman who says Weinstein raped her in 2013. (Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and argues the encounters were consensual. He also faced new sex crime charges in L.A. on Monday.)
It’s important to understand that the trial’s narrowness doesn’t mean it can’t have a profound outcome. In fact, its limited focus mirrors the most recent case against Bill Cosby, the one decided in 2018 and upheld last year that ultimately put the disgraced television superstar behind bars.
In Cosby’s instance, more than 50 women had come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, but his trial technically hinged on the account of just one, Andrea Constand, who said the entertainer drugged and assaulted her years ago. Still, five women shared their experiences on the stand, bolstering the case that Cosby had a “unique sexual-assault playbook,” as a Pennsylvania appellate court put it in upholding his conviction.
Prosecutors in the Weinstein case are expected to mimic that strategy by calling several women who can speak to the former producer’s alleged pattern of predatory behavior. The most serious charge Weinstein faces is predatory sexual assault, which accuses him of sex crimes with more than one person. It carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The parallels between the Cosby case and Weinstein's were certainly not lost on New York Magazine, which yesterday published photographs of some of Weinstein’s accusers. The art recalls the magazine’s powerful cover featuring Cosby’s many accusers, only this time the women stand side-by-side, arms linked, forming a human chain.
The Cosby case was considered a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement. It was seen as an indication that societal attitudes had shifted—that jurors would take women’s accusations seriously and that justice would prevail. Now as Weinstein’s trial begins, everything that Cosby’s conviction came to represent is also at stake.
Today's Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe.
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