Harvey Weinstein is back on trial five years after #MeToo sparked a global reckoning – as Hollywood continues to untangle its web of bad behavior. The narrative that had long been whispered in the halls of agencies and studios and on film and television sets became public five years ago. According to a series of shocking exposes, Harvey Weinstein harassed and raped scores of women for decades and used his position to force them into silence.
Weinstein’s downfall lit the flames that set off a revolution. That upheaval transformed things for the better, and society was irrevocably altered. Nonetheless, the entertainment business has a long way to go before unraveling a complex web of decades of unethical behavior. In an unexpected twist, the campaign for change that began nearly five years ago with those initial stories will be waged in courtrooms throughout America in the coming weeks.
Sexual abuse stories highlight the long arc of justice and the numerous delays and detours required to make meaningful progress. After all, Weinstein’s legal problems haven’t gone away, even though his career has disintegrated. In fact, his next sexual assault trial begins in Los Angeles next week. It contains an altogether new set of charges, apart from the landmark New York trial that landed the movie mogul in prison for 23 years in early 2020 after he was convicted of rape and sexual assault. In Los Angeles, he is charged with 11 counts of rape and sexual assault arising from five alleged victims. At the same time, Weinstein is continuing to appeal his New York rape conviction and preparing to defend himself from additional assault charges against him in the U.K.
But Weinstein isn’t the only abuser to face a court and jury. Several high-profile cases are emerging on both coasts. Weinstein’s trial will take place at the same time and in the same courthouse as Danny Masterson’s rape trial. In the coming days, the rape trial of director Paul Haggis and a legal battle between Kevin Spacey and Adam Rapp, the actor who accused Spacey of molesting him in 1986 when Rapp was 14 years old, will begin in New York. Shia LaBeouf will stand trial in 2023 for sexual abuse claims made by his ex-girlfriend, actress and artist FKA Twigs.
They are the most recent to have their day in court. R. Kelly was found guilty in a federal child pornography case in September, which is separate from his racketeering and sex trafficking conviction, which garnered him a 30-year sentence. In a civil jury case earlier this year, Bill Cosby, who was released from prison in 2021 after his 2018 conviction was overturned, was found responsible of sexually abusing 16-year-old Judy Huth at the Playboy Mansion in 1975.
Of course, the legal battles are different than most stories in the last five years: from Matt Lauer to Bill O’Reilly to Les Moonves to Jeffrey Tambor to Brett Ratner to Marilyn Manson, the list goes on. And before the #MeToo movement took off in 2017, the allegations against Cosby and the fall of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes laid the ground for a global reckoning.
Nonetheless, proponents of the movement warn that more needs to be done and that many incidences of harassment, abuse, or rape go unreported or uninvestigated. According to RAINN, just 25 offenders of 1,000 sexual assaults will be imprisoned, leaving 975 free.
“There’s a court of public opinion and a court of law,” says Gloria Allred, a high-wattage attorney and women’s rights activist. She has successfully represented victims accused of sexual assault by Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and R. Kelly.
“There are so many improvements, it’s difficult to know where to start,” Allred adds, praising the development she’s seen in the last five years. When asked if it’s improved, she pauses briefly before saying flatly, “Not really.” Every day, I live in a battle zone.”
Allred will represent three women who testify in Weinstein’s impending trial in Los Angeles. Even though the convicted rapist is already in prison, she believes the next trial is critical because every woman deserves her day in court. “It’s about getting them justice,” she says.
“If there is sufficient evidence to sustain a prosecution elsewhere of the same criminal, there is no limit to the number of prosecutions that are legitimate,” Allred argues, citing her work with victims of R. Kelly, who has faced four charges in separate states.
The forthcoming trial is nerve-racking for Caitlin Dulany, a survivor who was one of the first women to speak out against Weinstein.
“I feel that while we’ve gotten to the stage as a community where we recognize that living without sexual assault is a basic human right, and we’re aware of how ubiquitous it is,” Dulany adds, “the legal system has to catch up.”