LOS ANGELES –
Mel Gibson can testify about what he learned from one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers, a judge ruled Friday in the former movie mogul’s rape and sexual assault trial.
The 66-year-old actor and director is one of many witnesses, and by far the best known, whose identity was revealed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The judge and attorneys paused jury selection to find out what evidence would be allowed at trial and who could testify. The list of witnesses for the trial is sealed.
Judge Lisa B. Lench ruled that Gibson could testify in support of the masseuse and his friend, who will be known as Jane Doe .3 at the trial. Weinstein is accused of sexually arousing 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 being massaged by a woman at a California hotel in Beverly Hills in May 2010, naked Weinstein followed her into the bathroom and masturbated. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and denies any non-consensual sexual activity.
Weinstein’s attorneys argued against allowing Gibson to testify, saying what he learned from the woman from getting a massage from her was not the woman’s “fresh complaint” according to the law that Gibson would stand for. “New Complaint” under California law that allows evidence of sexual assault or other crime if the victim reported it voluntarily and relatively quickly after it happened .
Prosecutors say that when Gibson casually mentioned Weinstein’s name, the woman had a traumatic reaction and Gibson understood she had been sexually assaulted. Gibson doesn’t remember the timing of the exchange, but prosecutors will use another witness, Allison Weiner, who remembers speaking with both Gibson and the woman in 2015.
Judge Lench said Gibson’s testimony would depend on how the accuser described the exchange to him as she took a stand and that she could choose to make a judgment against it at that time.
Weinstein’s attorney Mark Werksman later argued that if Gibson took his stand, the defense should be allowed to re-examine him about the well-publicized anti-social remarks Gibson made in an arrest in 2006, and for racist statements to a girlfriend that were recorded and made public in 2010.
Lench said the broader discussion of Gibson’s racism is unrelated to the trial, but she will allow questioning whether he has personal biases and aversions towards Weinstein.
Werksman argues that Gibson has such prejudice both because Weinstein is Jewish, and because Weinstein published a book critical of depicting Jews in the 2004 Gibson-directed film, “The Passion of the Christ.”
“Any evidence of Mr Gibson’s racism or anti-Semitism would give rise to prejudice against my client who challenged him,” Werksman said.
The lawyer spoke briefly and confusedly, saying he thought the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but Weinstein, whose film once dominated the Oscars, shook his head as he sat down at the defense table.
“Sorry, my client will know better than I do,” Werksman said. “But it’s an award-winning film. “
The defense also argued that Gibson was trying to whitewash his image by focusing on Weinstein’s misconduct and claiming to be a champion of the .MeToo movement.
The prosecution argued that Gibson had not made such an offer of himself and at the time of speaking to his masseuse he said he was in discussions about reaching a business settlement. business with Weinstein, shows no such bias.
Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez called Gibson’s past comments “despicable,” but said they were unrelated to the narrow purposes he would be called to stand for.
Gibson’s testimony raises the prospect of two of Hollywood’s most powerful men, who have experienced public failure, facing each other in court.
An email seeking comment from a representative for Gibson was not immediately returned.
In several similar rulings on Friday, Lench also found that “Melrose Place” actor Daphne Zuniga could testify in a similar capacity to a woman known at trial as Jane Doe. 4, whom Weinstein was accused of raping in 2004 or 2005.
The Associated Press usually does not name people who say they have been sexually abused.
Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence on 2020 counts of rape and sexual assault in New York. The state’s highest court agreed to hear his appeal in that case.
He was then taken to Los Angeles for a trial starting Monday, five years after women’s stories about him gave a big impetus to the .MeToo movement.
Friday’s arguments came a day after the premiere of “She Said,” which tells the work story of two New York Times reporters whose story took Weinstein down.
Weinstein’s lawyers had previously sought to delay the trial in Los Angeles because publicizing the film could damage the jury group, but the judge dismissed their recommendation.
The trial is expected to last eight weeks. The judge and attorneys general will return to the jury selection process Monday morning, and opening statements are expected to begin October 24.