Jennifer Siebel Newsom took the stand Monday at Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial, accusing the fallen Hollywood mogul of raping her in a Beverly Hills hotel suite 17 years ago when she was a struggling actor.
Testifying before a jury in downtown Los Angeles, Siebel Newsom cried and at times wailed as she shared graphic details of what she remembered as a violent assault that lasted more than an hour. The rape “devastated me emotionally,” she told the jury.
“This was hell,” she said as her husband, Governor Gavin Newsom, waited in a room down the hall after the court refused to let him into the courtroom to hear his wife’s testimony.
As the trial entered its fourth week, Siebel Newsom became the seventh woman to testify that Weinstein used his influence to isolate them in hotel rooms and attack them in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Puerto Rico or Toronto. The details of Siebel Newsom’s allegations had not been made public before her testimony.
Weinstein, 70, is serving a 23-year sentence for a sex offense conviction in New York. The current lawsuit stems from alleged assaults in hotels in the Los Angeles area between 2004 and 2013.
Siebel Newsom said when she met Weinstein at the Toronto International Film Festival a few weeks before the attack, she was a 31-year-old actor and filmmaker who saw him as “the top of the industry.” At the time, she said, she had not met her husband, then the mayor of San Francisco.
Asked by a prosecutor to identify Weinstein in court, Siebel Newsom covered her face with her hands, sniffed and wiped away tears before pointing at him at the defense table.
“He’s staring at me,” she said.
At the film festival, she testified, she was talking to friends in a bar when she noticed that “everyone kind of backed off” when Weinstein walked up to her and introduced herself.
“I felt like the Red Sea was parting,” she recalls. “I don’t know if it was reverence or fear.”
She said she found Weinstein both charming and intimidating, but she was flattered that he seemed curious about her burgeoning career.
During a trip to Los Angeles a few weeks later, she said, Weinstein stopped by her West Hollywood home to deliver a gift, a book about MGM cofounder Louis B. Mayer, and invited her to meet with him the next day at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills to discuss her ambitions.
She expected to meet him at the hotel bar, she said, so she was confused and hesitant when a Weinstein aide summoned her to his lavish suite. While waiting for him there on a bench, she noticed a bottle of champagne in a bucket. That made her more nervous – “It felt a bit like a date,” she testified – but she decided to stay.
“You don’t say no to Harvey Weinstein,” she said. When asked by the prosecutor why not, she replied: “Because he can make or ruin your career.”
Once Weinstein finished his meeting and sat on the couch with her, Siebel Newsom said, she expected to talk to him about film projects she hoped to pursue in India or Africa, but he seemed uninterested. He told her he wanted to feel “more comfortable,” then stepped away, then called from a dark hallway, “Can you help me?”
Siebel Newsom said she found Weinstein bent over in a bathrobe in a brightly lit bathroom. He was masturbating, she testified, and grabbed her and tried to get her hand on his penis.
“I just remember trying to back down physically,” she said, remembering repeatedly telling him, “Please don’t.”
She said he came over and groped her breasts, but she kept backing away in a long “cat and mouse” at the bathroom door. “I tried to get away carefully,” she said.
She described herself as “upset” and “panicked”, and said she cried and trembled when he laid her on a couch and tried different tactics to force her into sex. He named several actresses, she testified, and “tried to tell me this is the industry.”
She said she eventually shared the trauma of losing her sister when she was a girl to try and get him to see her as “a human being, not an object.”
After 45 minutes, he forced her into the bedroom, she testified, and continued to feel her breasts through her clothing as he masturbated, using her “like this blow-up doll” as she continued to cry, shake, and resist.
Siebel Newsom cried loudly as she answered a prosecutor’s questions about what happened in the bedroom. She wore a wrap dress, her favorite for auditions, she shared, and Weinstein reached into it. “He put his fingers in my vagina,” she testified. “I’m shaking. I’m crying. He knows this isn’t permission at all.”
Weinstein, she said, stuck part of his penis inside her and performed oral sex on her, and she kept thinking she could contract a disease.
“I was afraid he would put his body inside my body and hurt me.” she testified. She said she eventually decided she needed to make “pleasure noises” and masturbate him.
“I just did it to make it stop,” said Siebel Newsom. “I just wanted to get the f— out of there. Excuse my language. I’m sorry, I just wanted to leave.”
Weinstein then suggested they might be girlfriend and boyfriend, she said, and “I just thought I’d throw up.”
“He just said, ‘What would it be like to introduce myself’ to my father?” she told jurors. “And I just thought, ‘Oh my God, this is so disgusting, so wrong.'”
Siebel Newsom initially seemed eager to testify on Monday morning, but was also visibly nervous. At one point she paused and told the court, “Sorry, I need to take a deep breath.”
The women in the case testify anonymously. The Times does not name sexual assault victims unless they have spoken out publicly or asked for identification. Siebel Newsom accused Weinstein of abuse in a 2017 Huffington Post essay that appeared just days after major media outlets began publishing information about rape allegations against the Miramax co-founder. Her involvement in the Los Angeles trial was not widely known until The Times reported on it last month.
Siebel Newsom first reported the 2005 rape to police in 2020, nearly three years after other allegations by women against Weinstein sparked the #MeToo movement. She acknowledged that she had sent him friendly professional emails in the years following the incident.
“I had a career,” she said. “I tried to put what happened in a box.”
Siebel Newsom also said she once had one of Newsom’s campaigns ask for a $500 donation from Weinstein, which her husband returned.
Weinstein is charged with 11 counts of rape and sexual battery stemming from allegations against Siebel Newsom, identified in court as Jane Doe 4, and four others. All but one of the women testified.
Prosecutors did not name Jane Doe 5 during their evidence. Weinstein’s defense team has asked LA County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench to dismiss the four charges related to her accusation if she does not testify. Lench has declined to do so and Thompson has not commented on the status of the woman in the case.
Two sources with direct knowledge of the situation said the prosecution is having “witness availability issues” with Jane Doe 5, as she lives outside the country and cannot be brought to court via a subpoena. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to talk candidly about the situation.
If convicted in Los Angeles, Weinstein would receive a de facto life sentence.
Weinstein has denied wrongdoing. His attorneys, Mark Werksman and Alan Jackson, aggressively questioned his accusers during cross-examination. Werksman has said that the attacks described by Jane Does 1 and 2 never happened and claimed that some of the other accusers, including Siebel Newsom, engaged in “transactional sex” with Weinstein to advance their Hollywood careers.
“The plaintiffs in this case, women who voluntarily played the game under the rules then in force, will now enter this courtroom, with their lawyers in tow, and claim they were raped and sexually assaulted,” Werksman said during his opening statement. pronunciation. “They have to lie to themselves… to make it seem like it was forced upon them what they then did consensually.”
In one of the most baffling moments of the trial, Werksman also said that Siebel Newsom was engaged in revisionist history by making himself a victim. Otherwise, he said, she’d be “just another bimbo sleeping with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”