Jennifer Siebel Newsom testifies in Weinstein’s LA rape trial

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Note: If you don’t want to be disgusted, you should stop reading now. But if you want to learn about what it takes to testify about a sex crime, go right ahead.

California’s first partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, was as shaky as anyone else would be as she testified on Monday. Yet she spoke as plainly as anyone ever has about how Harvey Weinstein raped her at what was supposed to be a business meeting in his Beverly Hills hotel suite in 2005.

Because reliving an attack is no more pleasant than it was the first time around, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s normally poised wife knocked over the microphone as she took the stand. She had to stop and take a deep breath, was too rattled to remember what year she’d turned 28, and kept apologizing for saying, “I feel like…”

Maybe in need of some extra protective layers, she at first kept her camel coat on in the courtroom, just down the hall from where OJ Simpson was acquitted.

Asked to point out her attacker in court, she burst into tears: “He’s wearing a suit and a blue tie and he’s staring at me.” Sometimes, she sobbed so hard that she was difficult to understand, crying out, “Oh God!” and “I just wanted to get the f— out of there.”

She’d gone to the hotel thinking they were going to meet in the bar to discuss the projects she was working on as a young actress and producer. But after she’d arrived, an assistant told her to go to the suite, where others soon melted away. Then, after just a few minutes of distracted conversation, she said, he excused himself and called from the bathroom for her to come help him. Thinking he might be hurt, she instead found him in a bathrobe touching himself.

In the packed public gallery, several women wept, too, as Siebel Newsom testified that for somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour, she stood “like this tree that’s not going to move,” refusing to bend to a man who was both terrified and disgusted her.

Still, she tried to be what she called “gracious.”

“I think I was being my polite self,” saying, “sorry, please don’t, and mumbling” as she fended him off.

She tried, she said, to get him to see that she was a human being, not “this blow-up doll he’s trying to masturbate off of,” and that she was “a nice girl” and not an object.

Eventually, Weinstein forced himself on her anyway, and penetrated her, sort of, though “it’s not staying in because his penis is so weird,” she told the court, sobbing some more as she said that all she could think about was that she ‘d get some horrible disease from this sick person while he “talked about his ex-wife and how I reminded her of him.” Him of her, she meant to say.

Finally, “I was exhausted, like I am now, I’m sorry. … He knows this is not normal. He knows this is not consent.” But, seeing that there was no stopping him, “I used my hand on his penis so I could make him stop so I could leave.”

And yes, she said, she even made some “pleasure noises” to “get him to ejaculate faster.” I just wanted to get the f— out of there.” Then, like a very nice girl, she apologized to the court for saying f—.

When “my worst nightmare” was over, she said, “it was like, silence,” followed by some babbling about them “being boyfriend and girlfriend” and what it would be like being introduced to her father. “He was already controlling the narrative.”

Siebel Newsom endured ‘hell’

If this seems to you like the kind of thing that anyone, let alone the wife of a popular governor and presidential aspirant, says under oath for any other reason than that it’s true, then you may need almost as much help as the convicted former film producer does.

But even after the “hell” she’d endured, Siebel Newsom said, she tried to end the evening on a “polite” note and went home still in shock, crying and talking to herself: “That didn’t just happen, Jen . It’s OK, you’re going to be fine.” She put the whole hideous experience in a box she hoped never to have to open again. “I was like, ‘I’m a survivor. I can wake up the next day and go to work.'”

But what she really felt was that he’d “totally robbed a piece of me.”

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In this courtroom artist sketch, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker and the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, takes the stand at the trial of Harvey Weinstein in Los Angeles on Monday. Bill Robles AP

As at Weinstein’s first rape trial in New York, he has again pleaded not guilty, this time to four counts of rape and seven counts of sexual assault involving five women.

The 70-year-old former producer mostly showed no reaction as Siebel Newsom testified. But when she talked about trying to get away from him, he shook his head no and covered his eyes with his hands.

The thing that Siebel Newsom, now a 48-year-old documentary filmmaker and mother of four young children, seemed to have the hardest time admitting on the stand is that she didn’t tell her husband the whole story about what had happened to her for more than a decade. They met in 2006, and he didn’t know everything, she seemed to say, until the #MeToo movement began to crest in October of 2017.

“Sir, I dropped hints along the way,” she said under cross-examination. “I told him that Harvey was sketchy at different times, and he picked up on it himself when they met.”

As soon as Newsom finally did learn what had happened, she said, he gave back the $500 donation that she had at one point told his team they should solicit from Weinstein.

Oh, so that’s “just politics,” defense attorney Mark Werksman taunted her, quietly pocketing a check from “someone who’s done something despicable to your wife” and only giving it back after the whole world learns about it?

No, she said. “This is about me. This is not about my husband.”

Although that should be the case, it’s about both of them now, of course. That’s why she is special, but both Newsoms deserve so much credit for her bravery in coming forward and his in supporting her decision to do that.

Werksman, who in his opening statement called Siebel Newsom just one more “bimbo” who’d willingly slept with Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood, also accused her of inventing new details about the assault while on the stand on Monday. “Today is the first time you’ve ever told anyone he tried to dig his fingers into your vagina? … Answer the question, Miss Jane Doe 4.”

On Tuesday, when his cross-examination continues, she’ll have to answer that question and many more like it.

This story was originally published November 15, 2022 5:30 AM.

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Melinda Henneberger is The Sacramento Bee’s local columnist. She has covered crime, local and state government, hospitals, social services, prisons and national politics. For 10 years, she was a reporter for The New York Times in New York, Washington, DC, and Rome. She won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2022, was a Pulitzer finalist for commentary in 2021, for editorial writing in 2020 and for commentary in 2019. She received the Mike Royko Award for Commentary and Column Writing from the News Leaders Association in 2022 and 2019 , as well as the Scripps Howard Walker Stone Award for Opinion Writing in 2018.

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