Rose McGowan is planning to go to trial in Virginia on a drug possession charge, arguing she is innocent of the crime and may have been framed by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
A judge in Loudoun County General District Court found Thursday that there was enough evidence to move forward with the case against the actress and anti-sexual-harassment advocate, who is accused of leaving a wallet with cocaine inside it on a plane at Dulles International Airport in January 2017.
During Thursday’s hearing, prosecutors brought a half-dozen witnesses who testified that the wallet was found by a cleaning crew with cocaine inside, along with McGowan’s driver’s license. A prosecutor stressed that McGowan never came to pick it up once she learned it was in police custody.
Attorneys for McGowan said after the hearing that they were confident a jury would find no proof McGowan knew the drugs were in the wallet or had possession of the wallet when her plane landed in Virginia.
“We have a lot of faith in the 12 citizens of Virginia who will get to hear what happened for real,” defense attorney Jessica Carmichael told reporters.
McGowan was one of the first women to accuse Weinstein of rape and has since become an outspoken advocate for sexual assault victims. The defense has argued in court papers that Weinstein could have been involved in planting the drugs and cited news reports saying he hired private investigators to stop McGowan and others from coming forward.
“Rose is a feminist whistleblower who has been outspoken about sexual abuse,” Jennifer Robinson, a London-based human rights lawyer working with McGowan, said outside court. Weinstein, she said, “hired ex-intelligence agents to infiltrate her life and undermine her credibility.”
Weinstein has denied allegations of rape. A spokesman for the producer did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.
The wallet was found after McGowan flew into Dulles for the January 2017 Women’s March.
Toffic Yeseuf, part of the plane’s cleaning crew, testified through an Amharic translator Thursday that he found the wallet under a seat in first class and opened it to look for identification. He then took $25 in cash out to count, he said, explaining that it is standard procedure, to protect against any theft allegation. Under the cash, he said, he found the white powder. He called a supervisor, who called airport authorities.
Fire and police officials testified that the two bags of white powder repeatedly tested positive for cocaine.
Detective Jarrod Hughes of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department said from the witness stand that he called McGowan the day after her flight to say her wallet had been found.
He said McGowan asked him to leave the wallet at baggage claim. He told her it was at the airport police department and asked to speak to her. He testified that she told him she would come that evening but never did.
Hughes testified that along with the cocaine and cash, the black Chanel wallet contained a California driver’s license, a medical-marijuana card, a Screen Actors Guild card and insurance and credit cards.
“All of a sudden, she did not want to pick up her Chanel wallet,” prosecutor Rebecca Thacher said in court. “Ms. McGowan was on that plane. The cocaine was in her wallet.”
A warrant was issued for McGowan’s arrest on Feb. 1, 2017, Hughes said, and was mailed to her twice. The warrant’s existence was publicly revealed in October.
In court Thursday, Judge Dean S. Worcester acknowledged that it is “maybe a possibility that someone else gained access to that airplane.”
But he said that was an argument for trial, not a preliminary hearing.
Prince William County prosecutors are handling the case because the commonwealth’s attorney for Loudoun County was represented by one of McGowan’s defense attorneys in a lawsuit.
Cocaine possession is a felony in Virginia. If she is found guilty, McGowan could face up to 10 years in prison.
Correction: An earlier version of this report said McGowan could face up to a year in jail. She could face up to 10 years under Virginia law.