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Ex-movie mogul Harvey Weinstein faces a sexual assault trial in Los Angeles

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Harvey Weinstein, once one of Hollywood's most powerful movie producers, is back in Los Angeles to face sexual assault charges.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Weinstein was extradited to California for this second criminal trial. He's charged with 11 counts of sexual assault. Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year sentence in New York after being convicted on similar charges there.

FADEL: NPR's culture correspondent Mandalit del Barco has been following the story. A warning - that this report includes descriptions of sexual assault. Good morning, Mandalit.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So could you outline the charges in this particular trial?

DEL BARCO: Sure. Well, in California, five women alleged that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted them between 2004 and 2013. Now, Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to counts of what the law calls forcible rape, oral copulation, sexual battery by restraint and sexual penetration by use of force. According to the district attorney's office, some of these alleged attacks happened in hotel rooms. And that's in line with the pattern documented by The New Yorker and The New York Times, who made this news public, as you might remember. Women say that the Hollywood producer lured them with promises of career advice, and then he demanded sexual favors with threats that he would ruin their careers if they didn't comply. And as you noted, Leila, Weinstein is already serving a 23-year prison sentence in New York for similar charges by a former actress and a former assistant to a TV show. And here in LA, he could face a sentence of up to 140 years in prison.

FADEL: Now, nine men and three women have been selected. Do we know anything about the jury that will determine Weinstein's fate?

DEL BARCO: You know, during jury selection, some people admitted that they were ambivalent, or they had no opinion about, or they never heard of the #MeToo movement. That, of course, is the social media movement sparked by the news of Harvey Weinstein. That movement has exposed sexual misconduct by very powerful men in business, politics and entertainment. One of the jurors who was selected reportedly said she was on the fence about #MeToo. And she said, quote, "I believe most women but not necessarily all." Some of the jurors reportedly expressed some doubt about whether they could find a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case with no DNA evidence. In this trial, there is no such evidence.

FADEL: I have to say I'm surprised there's anyone left who hasn't heard of the #MeToo movement.

DEL BARCO: Right.

FADEL: So we're expected to hear from a number of accusers. How long will the trial last?

DEL BARCO: Well, here in Los Angeles, nine of Weinstein's alleged victims are expected to testify against him. That includes fashion models and also Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an actress and documentary filmmaker. She's married to California Governor Gavin Newsom. And she's been public about being sexually assaulted during a purported work meeting with Weinstein. Also, the prosecutors plan to call dozens of witnesses to testify against Weinstein in the coming weeks, maybe 50 of them. Their identities are not yet known, except for the very famous actor Mel Gibson, who is a friend of one of the accusers. The judge has ruled that he can testify. And this trial in LA could take a few months. But even after it's over, it's not the end of legal proceedings for Harvey Weinstein. He's appealing his New York verdict. And prosecutors in London have authorized charges against him from alleged incidents in 1996.

FADEL: NPR's Mandalit del Barco in Los Angeles. Thank you so much, Mandalit.

DEL BARCO: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.