Harvey Weinstein’s defense lawyer did not hold back Tuesday as he pressed Jennifer Siebel Newsom on her allegations that the disgraced titan raped her in 2005, demanding she “define the word acquiesce” and describe to jurors how she “faked an orgasm” to escape.
“Do you understand the paradox of trying to stop a rapist by faking an orgasm?” defense attorney Mark Werksman asked the actress and wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom at one point during the cross-examination in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Siebel Newsom is one of four women set to testify against Weinstein in his second sex-crimes trial, where the convicted rapist faces seven new criminal charges. She told jurors on the stand Monday that Weinstein invited her to his Peninsula Hotel in September 2005 under the guise of career development.
In fact, the 48-year-old former actress and documentary filmmaker told jurors, Weinstein quickly began to touch himself before engaging in a brutal “cat-and-mouse” game that included his penetrating her with his “fish-like” and “messed-up” penis, digitally penetrating her, and orally assaulting her. The whole assault, she said, made her feel like “this blow-up doll that he’s just trying to masturbate off of.”
“He said relax, relax, this is all gonna be OK, this is gonna relax you,” she added on Tuesday about the assault. “I was trembling and I was shaking and I was crying.”
In an emotional moment before stepping off the stand on Tuesday, Siebel Newsom began to cry and shout as she insisted that she did everything she could in that moment to stop Weinstein from assaulting her. “I did with my voice and with my body...I did by slamming my legs together,” she said. “I tried to get out of there, I tried, I tried so hard.”
But while Siebel Newsom broke down on the stand several times during her testimony, she seemed to hold her own as Weinstein’s lawyer subjected her to a series of rapid-fire questions. Among his queries: Why she did not immediately tell authorities every detail of the alleged attack when she spoke to them two years ago, and why she felt the need to seek Weinstein’s guidance when she was already a financially secure Stanford graduate.
“What you’re doing today is exactly what he did to me,” Siebel Newsom shot back at Werksman after he repeatedly asked her to define the word “acquiesce” and then questioned whether she was “too tired to testify” when she did not immediately respond.
“He took control and I didn’t fight it any longer until I found another way,” she added.
Werksman’s harsh questioning—he claimed Siebel Newsom failed to tell authorities she “had touched Mr. Weinstein’s penis and tried to get him to ejaculate”—is not surprising, given the defense counsel’s opening argument.
When the trial began, Werksman claimed that most of the women set to testify against Weinstein had “transactional sex” with the former producer in order to advance their careers. He even went as far as to suggest that without her current political profile, Siebel Newsom in particular would amount to “just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead.”
During cross-examination, Werksman seemed to home in on Siebel Newsom indicating she faked an orgasm to get away from Weinstein—claiming that she “indicated [her] pleasure.”
“It was not long. This is not When Harry Met Sally,” Siebel Newsom stressed at one point during the line of questioning. “I did not indicate my pleasure.”
“Except for the part that you were faking an orgasm,” Werksman tried again, to which Siebel Newsom responded: “That word is not right.”
Prosecutors allege that Weinstein used his power and prestige in Hollywood to lure and assault at least four women—and ensure their silence afterward. When asked by Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez to describe why she remained in the hotel suite on the day in question, she replied, “Because you don’t say no to Harvey Weinstein. He could make or ruin your career.”
That same fear, she said, led her to stay silent even after she saw Weinstein several more times throughout the years. Each time, she said the encounter left her “triggered” because he destroyed her “emotionally and physically.”
Less than shockingly, Weinstein’s legal team did not dwell on Siebel Newsom’s emotional state, instead prodding her on why she did not tell police more the first time she sat down with them.
“I offered to talk to detectives initially to support other women, not to be up here on the witness stand,” she said, before tearing up.
Werksman shot back: “You’re the wife of the governor of California at the time and you’re about to meet with the police and a deputy DA, and you didn’t think that the consequence of what you said was that you would be a victim in an indictment in a criminal indictment.”
Siebel Newsom explained that her recollection of the assault has been refined over time because, for a while, she put all her “sadness… fear… trauma” in a mental box so she “could move forward with” her life. Over time, she added, she has been “slowly allowing things out, and it’s been haunting me as we’ve been coming toward today.”
“But as you pulled memories out of the box, you changed them,” Werksman responded.
“Sir, he assaulted me,” Siebel Newsom shot back.
Siebel Newsom’s lawyer, Elizabeth Fegan, said in a statement to The Daily Beast on Tuesday that while her client “knew that it might have been easier to keep the memory of her 2005 assault buried... she felt an obligation to herself, her family, and most important, to the women who came forward as well as the women unable to speak out publicly.”
“Throughout her testimony she demonstrated tremendous strength and resolve in telling her truth and stood fast as Weinstein’s defense team ruthlessly tried to discredit her,” Fegan added.