LOS ANGELES — Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker and the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, nearly screamed through tears from the witness stand Monday when she told the court Harvey Weinstein raped her in a hotel room and spoke of the devastating effect it had on her in the 17 years since.
“He knows this is not normal!” she shouted during the Los Angeles trial, recalling her thoughts amid the alleged 2005 rape. “He knows this is not consent!”
She then shouted “Oh God!” as if overcome by the memory, and gave in to the crying. Weinstein watched from the defense table.
Siebel Newsom said she found herself unexpectedly alone with Weinstein in a suite at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, where she had agreed to join him for a meeting. She said she assumed others would be present and they would talk about her career.
When he emerged from the bathroom in a robe with nothing underneath and began groping her while he masturbated, she described her feelings.
“Horror! Horror!” she said. “I’m trembling. I’m like a rock, I’m frigid. This is my worst nightmare. I’m just this blow-up doll!”
She then gave a graphic description of a sexual assault and rape by Weinstein in the suite’s bedroom.
A 23-year sentence and a trial with 11 more counts
Weinstein’s lawyers, who only got to cross-examine her briefly and will continue on Tuesday, say the two had consensual sex and that she was seeking to use the powerful producer to advance her career.
Weinstein is already serving a 23-year sentence for a rape conviction in New York, and has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of rape and sexual assault in California involving five women.
Siebel Newsom is the fourth woman Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting who has taken the stand in Los Angeles. Her testimony was the most dramatic and emotional so far in the three-week trial. She cried throughout her 2 1/2 hours on the stand, beginning with when she was asked to identify the 70-year-old Weinstein for the record.
“He’s wearing a suit, and a blue tie, and he’s staring at me,” she said as tears began to flow.
Now 48, Siebel Newsom described how Weinstein first approached her to introduce himself at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005. At the time, she was a producer and actor with only a few small roles, and he was at the height of his Hollywood power.
“It felt like the Red Sea was parting,” she said as she watched others in the room make way for him. “I don’t know if it was deference or fear.”
But she said when they had a drink later in the day he was “charming” and showed “a genuine interest in talking about my work.”
He was in the Los Angeles area a few weeks later, stopping by her home during a small party to drop off a gift and inviting her to the hotel meeting.
‘I didn’t know how to escape’
She described how nervous she was after being directed to his hotel suite. Asked by Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez why she didn’t walk away, she said: “Because you don’t say no to Harvey Weinstein.”
“He could make or ruin your career,” she said.
Afterward, she said she felt “so much shame.”
“I was so violated and I don’t know how that happened,” she said, sobbing. “I didn’t see the clues and I didn’t know how to escape.”
Siebel Newsom is known as Jane Doe #4 at the trial, and like the others Weinstein is charged with raping or sexually assaulting, her name is not being spoken in court. But both the prosecution and the defense have identified her as the governor’s wife during the trial, and Siebel Newsom’s attorney confirmed to The Associated Press and other news outlets that she is Jane Doe #4.
The AP does not typically name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they have come forward publicly.
Weinstein has had many famous accusers, including A-list actors, since he became a magnet for the #MeToo movement in 2017. But none of the women telling their stories at the trial have had anywhere near the prominence of Siebel Newsom — spouse of the man who last week sailed to a second term as governor of the nation’s most populous state, and may make a run for the White House. The governor was not in the courtroom Monday.
During cross-examination, Weinstein attorney Mark Werksman pressed Siebel Newsom repeatedly about when she told her husband about the assault, pointing out in a transcript of a 2020 interview with prosecutors that she said Newsom was “maybe” the first person she told. The lawyer was the first to say the name “Gavin Newsom” during the testimony, and repeated it often.
She said she “dropped hints along the way” through the years after meeting him when he was San Francisco mayor. And he got the full account when women’s stories about Weinstein became widespread in 2017. He would return former political donations from Weinstein then.
The impact of trauma
Werksman suggested that the couple sought the donations from Weinstein at a time when Newsom must have known her story.
He took money “from somebody you hinted had done something despicable to you?” Werksman asked.
“It’s complex,” Siebel Newsom responded.
“Well is that just politics,” Werksman asked, “that you just take money from someone who has done something despicable to your wife unless everybody finds out about it?”
Siebel Newsom denied the suggestion from Werksman that new elements of the alleged assault that she had not described in interviews with prosecutors or grand jury testimony came up for the first time in her testimony Tuesday.
He said he wanted to know why her story changed.
“We all heard you being very emotional,” he said. “You’ve had a lot of time to think about it in the past 17 years.”
Siebel Newsom said she had spent much of that time trying not to think about it.
“It’s very traumatic, sir,” she said.