Actor Mel Gibson can testify in Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault and rape trial, Judge Lisa B. Lench ruled on Friday. Lench ruled that Gibson can testify about what he learned from one of Weinstein’s accusers.
Gibson was one of many witnesses, and by far the best known, whose identities were revealed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Lench ruled that Gibson can testify in support of his masseuse and friend, who will be known as Jane Doe #3 at the trial. Weinstein is accused of committing sexual battery by restraint against the woman, one of 11 rape and sexual assault counts in the trial against the 70-year-old.
Prosecutors said that after getting a massage from the woman at a California hotel in Beverly Hills in May of 2010, a naked Weinstein followed her into the bathroom and masturbated. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty, and denied any non-consensual sexual activity.
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Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez presented to Lench that the prosecution wishes to call both Gibson and Allison Weiner to testify.
According to Martinez, Jane Doe 3 approached Gibson and detailed the sexual assault before Gibson told Weiner.
Martinez shared that Gibson does not recall the timing of the exchange, but Weiner remembered hearing it from Gibson in 2015, which the district attorney argues is relevant to the timing of the case.
Martinez and the district attorney’s office is arguing that this is a “fresh complaint,” but Weinstein attorney Mark Werksman does not agree. A “fresh complaint” under California law allows the introduction of evidence of sexual assault or another crime if the victim reported it to someone else voluntarily and relatively promptly after it happened.
“On that basis, we would ask that Mel Gibson not be allowed to testify,” Werksman said.
Judge Lench said Gibson’s testimony will depend on how the accuser describes the exchange with him when she takes the stand, and she may choose to rule against it at that time.
Werksman argues that if Gibson does in fact testify, the defense should be allowed to cross-examine him about antisemitic remarks he made during that time frame.
Werksman brought up Gibson’s 2006 arrest and presented an audio recording from 2010 where Gibson makes racist statements.
Lench said a wider discussion of Gibson’s racism was not relevant to the trial, but she would allow questioning of whether he had a personal bias and animus toward Weinstein.
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Werksman shared that a feud between Gibson and Weinstein started over the Gibson-directed movie “The Passion of the Christ.” According to Werksman, Weinstein published a book that criticized the depiction of Jews in the Gibson film, which Werksman argues that because of the book and because Weinstein is Jewish, Gibson has a bias relating to Weinstein.
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“Any evidence of Mr. Gibson’s racism or antisemitism would give rise to a bias against my client, who challenged him,” Werksman said.
Martinez called Gibson’s past comments “despicable,” but said they had no relevance for the narrow purposes he would be called to the stand for.
In one of several similar rulings Friday, Lench also found that “Melrose Place” actor Daphne Zuniga could testify in a similar capacity for a woman known at the trial as Jane Doe #4, whom Weinstein is accused of raping in 2004 or 2005.
Court will resume on Monday for discussion of jury panel dismissals.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of rape and sexual assault involving California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel, and four other women. The women will testify as “Jane Doe” during the trial in a Los Angeles court, where jury selection began Monday.
Weinstein, 70, is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence following a conviction in New York. Weinstein was granted permission to take his appeal of his 2020 sex crime conviction to the New York State Court of Appeals.
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Weinstein’s trial, which comes five years after women’s stories about him gave momentum to the #MeToo movement, is expected to last eight weeks. With the slow process of screening and selecting jurors from a pool of more than 200 people, opening statements are not expected until Oct. 24.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.