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Calif. first lady Siebel Newsom gives graphic testimony in Weinstein trial

A courtroom sketch depicts Jennifer Siebel Newsom on Monday at Harvey Weinstein's trial in Los Angeles. (Bill Robles/AP)
4 min

Documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), gave emotional testimony against disgraced former movie producer Harvey Weinstein in a Los Angeles courtroom on Monday.

Siebel Newsom accused Weinstein of raping her at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2005, where the pair held a meeting to discuss her career.

She took to the stand at the Los Angeles Superior Court as a three-week trial is underway. Weinstein is serving a 23-year sentence for sexually assaulting two women in New York — a conviction he is appealing.

Asked to identify Weinstein, 70, in the courtroom Siebel Newsom, 48, became tearful: “He’s wearing a suit, and a blue tie, and he’s staring at me,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

She said she had not expected to be alone with Weinstein when they met at his hotel suite, and said he emerged in the room wearing only a bathrobe and began groping her while he masturbated.

“Horror! Horror!” she told the court of her feelings in the moment, the Associated Press reported. “I’m trembling. I’m like a rock, I’m frigid. This is my worst nightmare.”

She then went on to tearfully describe in graphic detail her recollection of the alleged sexual assault and rape at the hotel.

She said she felt “scared,” Reuters reported and “remembered physically trying to back away,” she added. “He was just so big and so determined.”

Siebel Newsom told the court she had felt “so much shame” in the aftermath of the “traumatic” event.

Five years after the #MeToo movement began, survivors still face pushback when testifying in public. An expert on gender-based violence explains why. (Video: Hadley Green/The Washington Post, Photo: Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of rape and sexual assault including forcible oral copulation and sexual battery by restraint in California, involving five women in separate incidents spanning nearly a decade, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

His lawyers told the court the pair had engaged in consensual sex and that Siebel Newsom and other accusers had been seeking to use the former movie mogul to advance their own Hollywood careers.

Weinstein, one of the most high-profile individuals to face #MeToo allegations, was involved in producing movies such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” The movement became widespread in 2017 after reports of sexual assault and harassment by powerful male figures in a variety of industries as women spoke out on social media and elsewhere.

Siebel Newsom told the court she first met Weinstein at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005. “It felt like the Red Sea was parting,” she said as people made way for him. “I don’t know if it was deference or fear.”

She said in her testimony that he had on previous meetings been “charming” and showed “a genuine interest in talking about my work.”

She said she had been nervous while waiting for Weinstein in the hotel suite for the meeting. When asked by Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez why she didn’t walk out at that point, she said: “Because you don’t say no to Harvey Weinstein,” adding that “he could make or ruin your career.”

Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexually assaulting two women in New York

Siebel Newsom is known as “Jane Doe #4” at the trial. Her attorney, however, confirmed to reporters that she is Jane Doe #4, while both the prosecution and the defense have identified her during the trial as Newsom’s wife.

In 2017, Siebel Newsom wrote an op-ed for Huff Post, as allegations against Weinstein were coming to light, stating that she believed “every single word” written by the New York Times when it first published allegations of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, calling them “extremely disturbing, but not all that shocking.”

She wrote that she had “my own personal experience with Harvey Weinstein,” and referred to the Peninsula Hotel meeting “where staff were present and then all of a sudden disappeared like clockwork,” without elaborating. She added that she was “naive, new to the industry, and didn’t know how to deal with his aggressive advances.”

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Mark Werksman, Weinstein’s attorney, questioned Siebel Newsom on when she first told her husband about the alleged assault and why he had accepted political donations from Weinstein in the past.

Siebel Newsom said she had hinted about the assault in the years after meeting Gavin Newsom, and gave him the full story after allegations about Weinstein spread in 2017. He took money “from somebody you hinted had done something despicable to you?” Werksman asked, according to the AP.

She replied that it was “complex” and that Gavin Newsom had returned donations after 2017 following the #MeToo reckoning. Newsom won a decisive second-term victory as California’s governor last week.

Weinstein was extradited from New York to California last year. “Anyone who abuses their power and influence to prey upon others will be brought to justice,” L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón said at the time.

Siebel Newsom’s cross-examination will continue on Tuesday.