A judge says actor Mel Gibson can testify as a prosecution witness in producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial, though she cautioned the scope of his testimony could change based on the testimony of an alleged victim.
Prosecutors say a woman Weinstein is accused of assaulting told Gibson about the incident, and Gibson later relayed what she told him to a producer with ABC News’ 20/20.
Weinstein’s lawyers said prosecutors are trying to “burnish” their case with celebrities, while Gibson is “trying to rehabilitate his image by becoming a champion of the #MeToo movement.”
They sought permission to cross-exam Gibson about his 2006 post-arrest antisemitic rant, saying he “had a bias and prejudice toward Mr. Weinstein” and was feuding with him over Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.
“Shortly after the movie came out, Mr. Weinstein’s publishing company, Miramax Books, put out a book called ‘Perspectives on Passion of the Christ’ debunking the movie’s antisemitic overtones and false depiction of the Jews,” Weinstein’s lawyer Mark Werksman said. “This created a feud between Mr. Gibson and a Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein is Jewish. … Mr. Gibson knew that.”
Werksman said he believes the film “won best picture,” but his client corrected him, according to an Associated Press pool report, with Weinstein shaking his head and saying “no.”
“Sorry my client would know better than I would, it was an award-winning movie,” Werksman said.
In the movie, Werksman said, “Mr. Gibson joyfully depicts the Jews as being the killers of Christ.”
“If the people are going to call a person like Mr. Gibson as a witness against Mr. Weinstein, they should not shield him from a discussion of his prejudices and biases,” Werksman continued.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench ruled Friday that she’ll allow Gibson to testify about his conversation with Jane Doe 3, whom Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez described as his friend and masseuse.
Werksman said the woman “doesn’t describe an assault”; rather, Gibson said he noticed she began to cry after he mentioned the name as she massaged him, and it gave him the idea that Weinstein had sexually assaulted her.
“She just has an exaggerated emotional response to the name Harvey,” Werksman said.
But Martinez said Gibson didn’t merely mention Weinsten, rather he and the masseuse had a conversation, and he described a reaction from her that appeared related to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lench also ruled Werksman can question Gibson about personal animosity toward Weinstein, including regarding Passion of the Christ and Weinstein’s book on antisemitism. She won’t allow questions about his 2006 arrest or about Winona Ryder’s claim that he once asked her “Are you one of those oven-dodgers?”
“I’m not going to allow you to get into his other comments that may indicate his general demeanor about people who are not of his ilk,” Lench said. “I will allow you to question him about whether or not there is personal animosity between the two of them.”
The rulings on Gibson highlighted Friday’s hearings on motions in limine filed ahead of opening statements in Weinstein’s criminal trial, which is scheduled to last eight weeks and include 80 witnesses.
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.
All women are listed in court documents unanimously as Jane Doe 1-5, though they will be testifying in open court under their real names. Lawyers for Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), confirmed last week that she is one of the accusers and will testify.
The woman Gibson spoke with about Weinstein is Jane Doe 3, who Werksman said Friday had given Weinstein a massage when he entered a bathroom she was in and masturbated while naked.
Prosecutors are trying to prohibit Werksman and his law partner, Alan Jackson, from asking her about a book she’d discussed writing and publishing with Weinstein titled, “Naked Massage.” Werksman said the book was not pornographic, but Weinstein might have believed from the title that she was open to more than a massage.
Jury selection is still underway, with potential jurors due at the courthouse Monday afternoon as the judge addressed additional pretrial motions Monday morning.
Werksman last Tuesday complained of “almost medieval” conditions in the courthouse holding cell where he said Weinstein is confined for three to four hours after court. He thanked Judge Lench for addressing the issue the next day, saying “the sheriffs inspected and cleaned up the place where he’s being housed.”
This article is compiled from a pool report organized by The Associated Press. Friday’s report was by AP writer Andrew Dalton.
[Image: Gibson a screenshot via Fox News YouTube; Weinstein via ETIENNE LAURENT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
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