Jennifer Siebel Newsom took the stand Monday at Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial and accused the fallen Hollywood mogul of raping her 17 years ago in a Beverly Hills hotel suite when she was a struggling actor.
In testimony to a jury in downtown Los Angeles, Siebel Newsom wept and at times wailed as she shared graphic details of what she recalled as a violent assault that lasted more than an hour. The rape “destroyed me emotionally,” she told the jury.
“This was hell,” she said as her husband, Gov. Gavin Newsom, waited in a room down the hall after the court declined to allow him into the courtroom to hear his wife’s testimony.
As the trial entered its fourth week, Siebel Newsom became the seventh woman to testify that Weinstein used his influence to isolate them in hotel rooms and assault them in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Puerto Rico or Toronto. The details of Siebel Newsom’s allegations had not been publicly disclosed before her testimony.
Weinstein, 70, is serving a 23-year prison sentence for a sex crime conviction in New York. The current trial stems from alleged sexual assaults in Los Angeles area hotels between 2004 and 2013.
Siebel Newsom said that when she met Weinstein at the Toronto International Film Festival a few weeks before the assault, she was a 31-year-old actor and filmmaker who saw him as “the top of the industry.” At the time, she said, she had not yet met her husband, then the mayor of San Francisco.
Asked by a prosecutor to identify Weinstein in the courtroom, Siebel Newsom covered her face in her hands, sniffled and wiped away tears before pointing to him at the defense table.
“He’s staring at me,” she said.
At the film festival, she testified, she was speaking with friends at a bar when she noticed that “everybody sort of backed away” as Weinstein walked up to her and introduced himself.
“I felt like the Red Sea was parting,” she recalled. “I don’t know whether it was deference or fear.”
She said she found Weinstein both charming and intimidating, but she was flattered that he seemed curious about her budding career.
On a trip to Los Angeles a few weeks later, she said, Weinstein stopped by her West Hollywood home to deliver a gift, a book about MGM co-founder Louis B. Mayer, and invited her to meet with him the next day at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills to discuss her aspirations.
She expected to meet him in the hotel bar, she said, so she was confused and hesitant when a Weinstein assistant summoned her to his lavish suite. As she waited for him there on a couch, she noticed a bottle of champagne in a bucket. That made her more nervous — “It felt a little bit like a date,” she testified — but she decided to stay.
“You don’t say no to Harvey Weinstein,” she said. Asked by the prosecutor why not, she responded: “Because he could make or ruin your career.”
Once Weinstein wrapped up his meeting and joined her on the couch, Siebel Newsom said, she expected to talk with him about film projects she hoped to pursue in India or Africa, but he seemed uninterested. He told her he wanted to get “more comfortable” and stepped away, then called out from beyond a darkened hallway, “Can you help me?”
Siebel Newsom said she found Weinstein bent over in a bathrobe in a brightly lit bathroom. He was masturbating, she testified, and grabbed her and tried to get her hand on his penis.
“I just remember physically trying to back away,” she said, recalling that she repeatedly told him, “Please don’t.”
She said he came towards her and groped her breasts, but she kept backing away in a lengthy “cat and mouse” at the bathroom door. “I was just delicately trying to get away,” she said.
She described herself as “rattled” and “panicked,” saying she was crying and trembling as he got her on a couch and tested different tactics to coerce her into sex. He mentioned several actresses, she testified, and “tried to tell me that this is the industry.”
She said she wound up sharing the trauma of losing her sister when she was a girl to try to get him to see her as “a human, not an object.”
After 45 minutes, he forced her into the bedroom, she testified, and kept groping her breasts through her clothing as he masturbated, using her “like this blow-up doll” as she continued crying, shaking and resisting.
Siebel Newsom cried loudly as she answered a prosecutor’s questions about what happened in the bedroom. She was wearing a wrap dress, her favorite for auditions, she recounted, and Weinstein reached into it. “He inserted his fingers in my vagina,” she testified. “I’m shaking. I’m crying. He knows this is not consent at all.”
Weinstein, she said, inserted part of his penis inside her and performed oral sex on her, and she kept thinking she could catch a disease.
“I was afraid of him putting his body into my body and hurting me.” she testified. She said she ultimately decided she needed to make “pleasure noises” and masturbate him.
“I just did it to make it stop,” Siebel Newsom said. “I just wanted to get the f— out of there. Excuse my language. I’m sorry, I just wanted to get out.”
Weinstein then suggested that they might be girlfriend and boyfriend, she said, and “I just thought I was going to throw up.”
“He just said, ‘What would it be like introducing me’ to my dad?” she told jurors. “And I just thought, ‘Oh my God, this is so disgusting, so wrong.'”
Siebel Newsom initially appeared eager to testify Monday morning, but was also visibly nervous. At one point, she paused and told the court, “Sorry, I just need to take a deep breath.”
The women in the case are testifying anonymously. The Times does not name victims of sexual assault unless they have spoken out publicly or asked to be identified. Siebel Newsom accused Weinstein of abuse in a 2017 Huffington Post essay that ran just days after major media outlets began publishing information about rape accusations against the Miramax co-founder. Her involvement in the Los Angeles trial was not widely known until The Times reported it last month.
Siebel Newsom first reported the 2005 rape to police in 2020, almost three years after other women’s allegations against Weinstein triggered the #MeToo movement. She acknowledged sending him friendly professional emails in the years after the incident.
“I had a career,” she said. “I tried to put what happened in a box.”
Siebel Newsom also said she once had one of Newsom’s campaigns solicit a $500 donation from Weinstein, which her husband returned.
Weinstein is charged with 11 counts of rape and sexual battery stemming from accusations made by Siebel Newsom, identified in court as Jane Doe 4, and four others. All but one of the women have testified.
Prosecutors have made no mention of Jane Doe 5 throughout their presentation of evidence. Weinstein’s defense team has asked LA County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench to dismiss the four counts related to her accusation if she is not going to testify. Lench has declined to do so, and Thompson has not commented on the woman’s status in the case.
Two sources with direct knowledge of the situation said the prosecution is having “witness availability issues” with Jane Doe 5, as she lives outside the country and cannot be brought to court via subpoena. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly about the situation.
If convicted in Los Angeles, Weinstein would face a de facto life sentence.
Weinstein has denied wrongdoing. His attorneys, Mark Werksman and Alan Jackson, have aggressively questioned his accusers during cross-examination. Werksman has said the assaults described by Jane Does 1 and 2 never happened and claimed some of the other accusers, including Siebel Newsom, engaged in “transactional sex” with Weinstein to advance their Hollywood careers.
“The accusers in this case, women who willingly played the game by the rules that applied back then, they will come into this courtroom now, with their lawyers in tow, and claim they were raped and sexually assaulted,” Werksman said during his opening statement. “They have to lie to themselves… to make what they did consensually back then seem like it was forced upon them.”
In one of the trial’s most stunning moments, Werksman also said Siebel Newsom was engaging in revisionist history by casting herself as a victim. Otherwise, he said, she would be “just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”