The 66-year-old actor-director was one of many witnesses, and by far the best known, whose identities were revealed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The judge and attorneys took a break from jury selection to make motions about what evidence will be allowed at trial and who can testify. The witness list for the trial is sealed.
Judge Lisa B. Lench ruled that Gibson can testify in support of her masseuse and friend, who will be known as Jane Doe #3 at trial. Weinstein is accused of committing sexual assault by restraint against the woman, one of 11 counts of rape and sexual assault in the trial against the 70-year-old man.
Prosecutors said that after receiving a massage from the woman at a California hotel in Beverly Hills in May 2010, a naked Weinstein followed her into the bathroom and masturbated. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and denied any non-consensual sexual activity.
Weinstein’s attorneys argued against allowing Gibson to testify, saying what he learned about the woman while receiving a massage from her does not constitute a “new complaint” by the woman under the law for which Gibson would take the stand. A “new complaint” under California law allows for the introduction of evidence of a sexual assault or other crime if the victim reported it to someone else voluntarily and relatively soon after it happened.
Prosecutors said that when Gibson casually mentioned Weinstein’s name, the woman had a traumatic response and Gibson understood from her that she had been sexually assaulted. Gibson did not recall the timing of the exchange, but the prosecution will use another witness, Allison Weiner, who recalls speaking to both Gibson and the woman in 2015. Judge Lench said Gibson’s testimony will depend on how the accuser describes the exchange. with him when she takes the stand, and she can choose to rule against it at that point.
Weinstein’s attorney, Mark Werksman, later argued that if Gibson takes the stand, the defense should be able to question him about widely publicized anti-Semitic comments Gibson made during a 2006 arrest, and about racist remarks to a girlfriend that were recorded and publicized. in 2010.
Lench said a broader discussion of Gibson’s racism was not relevant to the trial, but would raise questions about whether he had personal prejudice and animosity toward Weinstein.
Werksman argued that Gibson was biased because Weinstein is Jewish and because Weinstein published a book that criticized the portrayal of Jews in Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ.”
“Any evidence of Mr. Gibson’s racism or anti-Semitism would result in bias against my client, who challenged him,” Werksman said.
The attorney briefly and inaccurately said he thought the film won an Academy Award for best picture, but Weinstein, whose films once dominated Oscars, shook his head as he sat at the defense table.
“Sorry, my client would know better than me,” Werksman said. “But it was an award-winning movie.”
The defense also argued that Gibson was trying to whitewash his image by focusing on Weinstein’s misdeeds and asserting himself as a champion of the #MeToo movement.
The prosecution argued that Gibson had made no such suggestions about himself, and that at the time of the conversation with his masseur he said he was discussing a business deal with Weinstein, showing no such bias.
Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez called Gibson’s earlier comments “despicable” but said they had no relevance for the limited purposes for which he would be called to testify. Gibson’s testimony raises the possibility that two of Hollywood’s most powerful men, who have suffered public falls, will face each other in court.
An email seeking comment from a Gibson representative was not immediately returned. In one of several similar rulings Friday, Lench also found that “Melrose Place” actress Daphne Zuniga could testify in a similar capacity for a woman known in court as Jane Doe #4, whom Weinstein is accused of raping in 2004. or 2005.
The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they have been sexually abused. Weinstein is already serving a 23-year sentence for a 2020 conviction for rape and sexual assault in New York. The state supreme court agreed to hear his appeal in that case.
He was subsequently brought to Los Angeles for a trial that began Monday, five years after women’s stories about him gave the #MeToo movement a major boost. Friday’s arguments came a day after the premiere of the film “She Said,” which tells the story of the work of the two New York Times reporters whose stories brought Weinstein down.
Weinstein’s lawyers previously tried to have the Los Angeles trial delayed because the film’s publicity could taint the jury, but the judge denied their motion.
The trial is expected to last eight weeks. The judge and attorneys will return to the jury selection process on Monday morning and opening statements are expected to begin on October 24.