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Harvey Weinstein’s New York trial gets off to a dramatic start

The long-awaited criminal trial of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein began in New York City this week. Although more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault, harassment or misconduct, this trial is based on charges of rape and criminal sexual assault brought by two women. Weinstein maintains the encounters were consensual. The New York Times’ Jodi Kantor speaks to Amna Nawaz.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The long-awaited criminal trial of Harvey Weinstein began in New York City this week.

    Amna Nawaz has the details.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault or misconduct going back decades.

    But the New York trial, where jury selection began today, is based on charges brought by two women. Weinstein faces one count of rape and one count of criminal sexual assault. He has maintained his sexual encounters with the women were consensual.

    Just hours after the trial began, a separate rape charge was brought against Weinstein in California, one of several criminal charges filed in a complaint there.

    Jodi Kantor, along with fellow New York Times reporter Megan Twohey, first broke the Weinstein story more than two years ago, and they co-authored the book "She Said."

    Jodi Kantor joins me now from New York.

    Jodi, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    A lot of people will think, when there were so many women who came forward with allegations against Harvey Weinstein, why is this one case based on just the stories of two of those women?

  • Jodi Kantor:

    Well, remember that so many of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, if you think of a kind of ocean of complaints out there, are not actually eligible for criminal prosecution.

    When you apply the statute of limitations, that ocean gets smaller. When you talk about acts that are not just sexual harassment — I mean, many of the allegations against Weinstein are very disturbing. There are tales of harassment, of abusive behavior, but those allegations aren't necessarily criminal. You can't go to jail for them.

    So the ocean gets smaller then. If you talk about women who are willing to come forward and participate in the process, the ocean gets even smaller.

    So what we're left with is this very narrow case that stands in contrast to the huge number of allegations against him. But that's part of why the news from Los Angeles about him being charged there was so significant, because it means that Harvey Weinstein is now fighting these kinds of charges on two fronts at the same time.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, Jodi, what about those two cases now in New York and Los Angeles? Could they have an impact on each other?

  • Jodi Kantor:

    Well, the obvious thing is, they significantly increase Harvey Weinstein's legal jeopardy in combination.

    Even if he gets off in New York, he will face a trial in L.A. Now, what's interesting is that there's a woman, an alleged Weinstein victim, who is actually involved in both cases. She is part of the charges in L.A., and she's supposed to be a supporting witness here in New York.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Tell me about that jury selection.

    Now, lawyers have to pick 12 judges, six alternates from a pool of hundreds of New Yorkers. Especially for a case like this, how critical is that process?

  • Jodi Kantor:

    Really critical, really complicated.

    First of all, remember that conviction requires unanimity from a jury. So the question of the selection of jurors, it's essential, both for the prosecution and the defense.

    The prosecution wants people who will believe these charges. The defense wants people who will be skeptical, who they can create doubt and questions.

    On the one hand, the defense, I think, especially will have a preference for people who haven't read a lot of the news of this case. On the other hand, given the way it's dominated the news for two years, it seems like that will be almost impossible.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Jodi, you been outside of the courthouse. Some of your colleagues have been reporting from inside that courtroom. Weinstein has already run afoul of the judge in this case. The judge got quite angry with him today.

    Tell me about what you can share about his conduct, both the way he entered the courtroom and what's been going on inside.

  • Jodi Kantor:

    You know, I was standing yesterday morning with a group of alleged Weinstein victims who were waiting outside the courthouse. They wanted to not confront him verbally, but they wanted to look him in the eye as he came into the courthouse.

    One of them even said that she had not seen Weinstein since the alleged violation years beforehand. So they were waiting. And he sort of swept into the courthouse without giving them a glance. He was surrounded by his legal team. He was sort of hobbling with a walker.

    But the judge, who — Justice Burke, who is a very exacting judge — he's a former prosecutor, has a reputation for being fair, but tough — he has already admonished Weinstein in the past. They had a cell phone problem in the courtroom several months ago.

    Today, apparently, Weinstein did it again, and the judge was very tough on him. He said to him — feels like it could have been a line in a movie. He said to him: Mr. Weinstein, is this how you want to go to jail, for using your cell phone in a courtroom?

    He was essentially threatening to remand him to a jail, unless Weinstein played by the rules.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A dramatic beginning to a trial that's sure to take several weeks to unfold.

    Jodi Kantor is going to be following it all.

    Jodi, thank you so much for being with us today.

  • Jodi Kantor:

    Thank you.

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