A judge on Monday went over the ground rules for when California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, testifies in disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial.
Weinstein’s lawyers won’t be allowed to question the self-described “First Partner of California” about her seeking advice from Weinstein after public reports in 2007 that former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom had an affair with a campaign aide’s wife, which would have been two or three years after she says Weinstein raped her.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, can’t question her about texts between she and actress Louisette Geiss in 2015, in which they discussed their experiences with Weinstein. Siebel Newsom had said that if all women came forward Weinstein would be in jail for life. Judge Lench also excluded them from bringing up a tweet from Siebel Newsom about Malia Obama getting an internship at Weinstein Co. that said she would probably be assaulted.
“It is snarky, but it is snarky because she had been raped, and she wanted to let the public know,” Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez said, according to a pool report from The Associated Press.
But Lench said “the problem I have … is there is nothing in the text or the tweet that relates to her.”
“She’s not saying if you and I came forward, he would be in jail for life. She’s saying if all these other people came forward he would be in jail for life,” the judge said today.
Prosecutors say Geiss, who has also publicly accused Weinstein of assaulting her, is expected to testify that Siebel Newsom told her she was raped by someone “high on the food chain” but did not name Weinstein. Actress Daphne Zuniga is expected to testify that Siebel Newsom referenced having a meeting with Weinstein and having negative feelings about it.
Martinez said each disclosure “came before October of 2017” and the #MeToo movement that exploded amid reports of Weinstein’s prolific abuse.
Regarding Siebel Newsom’s 2007 communications with Weinstein, Weinstein’s lawyer Mark Werksman said she continued to have a relationship after the alleged rape in 2004 or 2005. She emailed him in 2007 about a movie with which she’s involved, adding in the message, “Harvey, regarding the press thing, I was calling because I wanted some advice” about an article she said misquoted her.
At the time, Newsom was her boyfriend and the mayor of San Francisco. He’d also recently “publicly apologized for this ugly affair” with an aide’s wife, Werksman said Monday, and Siebel Newsom’s willingness to contact Weinstein about it contradicts her claim that he’d previously attacked her.
“The fact that she comes to Mr. Weinstein for that advice indicates the friendship and companionship of Jane Doe 4 and Mr. Weinstein. The defense will be that they had an affair, that they had consensual sex,” Werksman said. “She comes to him to basically navigate a sex scandal.”
Martinez said she’s “not sure how Mr. Werksman knows” how rape victims should behave, but “they do not react in a matter how someone who has not been raped would think.”
“What happened in her personal life has no relevance,” Martinez said, adding that Weinstein “was the person everyone looked to see how to deal with a bad press situation.”
Werksman said prosecutors are “trying to whitewash and inoculate their client from tough questioning.” Siebel Newsom seeking advice from Weinstein shows a different approach to victimization than the one she’s displaying in Weinstein’s criminal case, Werksman argued.
“When her boyfriend the mayor seduces an underling’s wife and gets scandalized over it,” she sides with the mayor, Werksman said. He later said Siebel Newsom was “basically shaming the woman.”
Martinez emphasized that Weinstein was a masterful media manipulator, so it made sense for Siebel Newsom to seek his advice, but said “We don’t think Jane Doe 4’s response to her boyfriend has anything to do with this trial,” meaning Newsom.
Lench said when disallowing the testimony that Werksman can question Siebel Newsom about “whether she sought his advice over a situation with the press. That’s fine.”
But the underlying content is, the judge said, “too tangential in relation to this trial.”
Werksman said he’s worried that without proper context, jurors will think Siebel Newsom was seeking advice about “some humdrum entertainment industry stuff.” But the judge assured him his fears were overblown. Prosecutors won’t say it’s an industry issue because they know that isn’t true, Lench said.
“It is far less relevant than you think it is. And far more prejudicial,” Lench told Werksman.
The judge said Werksman can describe the incident as a personal matter but cannot say it was about Newsom.
Regarding another motion, Werksman told Lench they may want to mention Siebel Newsom and Newsom’s maskless visit to the ultra-expensive French Laundry restaurant during pandemic restrictions that drew national ire. But he also said he’s willing to put the issue aside unless something prompts it, which the judge indicated was a good move “because I don’t see its relevance.”
Martinez added, “We’re seeking to exclude anything political, because this has nothing to do with politics.”
Werksman asked, “Your honor, surely you’re not suggesting that the defense can’t question Jane Doe 4 over her solicitation of donations for her boyfriend from Mr. Weinstein?”
No, according to the AP pool report, everyone agreed Weinstein’s lawyers can ask her about that.
Lench, however, said she’s concerned about voir dire of jurors, which was to begin Monday afternoon. They’ve already answered a question about their feelings on Newsom on the written questionnaire they filled out last week. Werksman assured the judge he won’t get into Democratic politics or political issues during questioning, which Martinez said satisfies the prosecution’s concerns.
The current jury pool stood at 148 as of Monday morning. Judge Lench on Friday ruled Mel Gibson can testify for the prosecution.
Already serving 23 years for sexual assault convictions in New York, Weinstein faces a potential life sentence if convicted in Los Angeles. He’s charged with 11 sexual assault-related counts involving five women between 2004 and 2013.
The charges involving Siebel Newsom accuse him of raping her sometime between September 2004 and September 2005. She first publicly accused Weinstein in a 2017 Huffington Post essay.
This article is compiled in part from a pool report organized by The Associated Press. Monday’s report was by AP writer Andrew Dalton.
(Images: Zuniga photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images; Newsom photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images; Geiss photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images)
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