How Multiple Accusers Create “Almost Insurmountable” Cases for Harvey Weinstein and Danny Masterson

Two of the most high-profile, closely watched criminal cases of the #MeToo era are headed to trial within a day of each other in October. Harvey Weinstein and Danny Masterson will face a jury at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Courthouse downtown, defending against allegations that they sexually assaulted multiple women.

Weinstein is charged with 11 counts of sex crimes, including rape, in connection with the assaults on five women from 2004 to 2013, which carries a total sentence of up to 140 years. Masterson is charged with three counts of rape between 2001 and 2003, which could mean a total of 45 years in prison. Both have steadfastly maintained their innocence.

before trials, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to legal commentators who noted that sexual assault exists within a specific area of ​​the law. A law in the California Evidence Code would allow jurors to use individual charges to corroborate others and to consider evidence of prior wrongdoing.

A widespread though little-discussed law would allow juries to consider cases in their entirety, as opposed to examining each charge individually.

“When you have multiple cases of alleged sexual violence, each act can be used to corroborate the facts of the others,” says Halim Dhanidina, a former prosecutor and judge who is now a criminal defense attorney.

According to the Judicial Council of California’s Advisory Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions, if jurors find that the prosecution has “proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed one or more crimes,” they may conclude that he “committed or was inclined to commit sex crimes.” and, based on that, conclude that he is also guilty of other charges.

“The law of evidence is underreported, considering the role it plays in the sex crimes that are brought up every day in the justice system,” Dhanidina notes. “It can take two or more individual weak cases and [really] Make them a very strong case.”

In Masterson’s case, prosecutors alleged a pattern of behavior, which attorneys say is a key factor. Masterson is accused of inviting each of the women to his Hollywood Hills home, giving them a drink that made them uncomfortable and dragging them upstairs to a Jacuzzi before raping them. “That’s the MO,” says Dhanidina, who emphasizes consistency of accounts. “Drug use, along with hot tubs, is compelling evidence to disqualify complaining witnesses.”

Criminal defense attorney Julia Jane notes: “In the absence of physical evidence where the cases are old, it puts a lot of weight on the prosecution’s case. It gives the relationship more context because the defense is going to say it’s There was consensus.

One of Masterson’s accusers reported her alleged rape to the police in 2004. Although no charges were filed against the actor, who did not respond to requests for comment, prosecutors may present the report. Meanwhile, Weinstein faces the same hurdle as prosecutors present evidence of “prior wrongdoing.” In addition to the five Jane Does whose accounts are related to the allegations, four other women will testify that Weinstein assaulted them. (LA judge Lisa Lynch is excluding the testimony of actresses Rose McGowan and Daryl Hannah, the former because many of the accounts were more recent than McGowan’s and the latter because Hannah did not allege assault.)

Weinstein appealed his New York conviction based on the introduction of testimony of prior wrongdoing from three women, but an appeals court in June found that evidence of the mogul’s alleged uncharged crimes countered the defense’s arguments. There were fair games to be made that Weinstein believed his accusers had consented to.

Weinstein’s representative, Juda Engelmayer, says the extraneous information tarnishes the producer’s image and should not be allowed. He explains THR that it is “patent partisan overkill, whose sole purpose is to paint the darkest portrait of Harvey to ensure that jurors are so intimidated that they feel they have no choice. ”

Awaiting trial, Weinstein sits in L.A.’s Twin Towers Correctional Facility, where he is serving his current 23-year sentence. (The jury at his LA trial will be allowed to consider his New York conviction.) As with Masterson, prosecutors are expected to present a consistent narrative: Weinstein has used his Hollywood mogul. as a weapon to lure women into the entertainment aspirations of hotels, where they would corner. and attack them.

Advice from lawyers THR They say they expect the state law governing evidence in sexual assault cases to weigh heavily against both men.

Joshua Ritter, a defense attorney and former L.A. prosecutor, notes, “Each individual charge might not be strong enough if it stood alone, but when you put them all together, it’s almost insurmountable.”

This story first appeared in the Oct. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe..

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