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California first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom testifies at Harvey Weinstein rape trial

California's first partner told jurors Weinstein attacked her at a hotel in Beverly Hills when she came to see him to discuss her career.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom, told a jury Monday about how she met the disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein in 2005 when she was an aspiring actress.

Newsom, who is one of the women Weinstein is charged with assaulting, took the stand Monday morning in downtown Los Angeles. Although she's one of the four victims named only as Jane Doe 1 through 4 in court filings, prosecutors identified her as the wife of the governor in their opening statement.

“Something kind of happened and there was this big person coming toward me, and everybody sort of like backed away," Newsom told the jury, recounting the meeting at the Toronto Film Festival. "Then Harvey Weinstein introduced himself to me. He was like the kingmaker, he was the top of the industry.”

Newsom said she had had little roles, guest-starring roles on TV shows and films at the time of the meeting. She described how she was a bit intimidated and flattered by Weinstein, who she said was charming initially and treated her like he was really curious about her.

A while later, back in LA where she lived, Newsom said Weinstein invited her to meet with him at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.

“I assumed it was at the bar, where I had been to meetings before," she said. "He was interested in helping me with my career, and wanted to talk more to me about it to offer advice and support.” 

But when she got to the hotel she was informed by an assistant that the meeting would be at Weinstein's suite, Newsom told the jury in at times tearful testimony. Weinstein wasn't interested in discussing her projects with her when she was up in his suite, instead disappearing to the bathroom to get "more comfortable."

Weinstein then called her to the bathroom to help him, she said, and when she got there he was in a bathrobe touching himself. The producer eventually took her to the bed where he raped her in spite of her attempts to ward him off, Newsom testified.

“He was just so big and so determined, he was like so aggressive, this is not — this was hell,” she said.

The former Hollywood kingpin, who with his brother ran the hugely successfully Miramax production and distribution company, was convicted of assault and rape in New York two years ago and sentenced to 23 years in prison. That verdict was upheld on appeal this year, but New York's top court has agreed to review it as well.

The 2017 exposure of the years of sexual exploitation of women by Weinstein spawned the #MeToo movement that prompted many victims to come forward and tell their stories. The victims in the LA trial also didn't contact police until after the movement made it no longer necessary for them to hide their ordeals.

Weinstein's lawyer Mark Werksman told the jurors in his opening statement that the #MeToo movement meant that women, previously willing to have sex with Weinstein in exchange for his help advancing their careers, now portray themselves as his victims.

Werksman referred to the Hollywood "casting couch" as the accepted norm for decades whereby men like Weinstein and up-and-coming young women looking to break into the entertainment industry engaged in what he said was consensual, transactional sex.

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