Mel Gibson can testify at Harvey Weinstein trial, judge rules

Mel Gibson and Harvey Weinstein

Mel Gibson is allowed to testify about what he was told by one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers in the sexual assault trial of the incarcerated film mogul.

Judge Lisa B. Lench ruled in Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday (October 15) that the actor can testify about what his masseuse and friend alleged had happened to her. The woman in question will be known as Jane Doe #3 at Weinstein’s upcoming trial in which he is accused of committing sexual battery by restraint, AP reports [via The Hollywood Reporter].

Weinstein, who co-founded the movie production company Miramax, is facing 11 rape and sexual assault counts in an overall trial. In March 2020 he was sentenced to 23 years in prison for counts of a Criminal Sexual Act in the first degree and third-degree rape.

Prosecutors said that Gibson claimed that Jane Doe #3 told him that she was giving Weinstein a massage at a California hotel in Beverly Hills in May 2010 when a naked Weinstein followed her into the bathroom and masturbated. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and denied any non-consensual sexual activity.

Weinstein’s lawyer argued against allowing Gibson to testify, saying that what he learned from the woman while getting a massage from her does not constitute a “fresh complaint” by the woman under the law by which Gibson would take the stand.

Harvey Weinstein leaves court on January 6, 2020 in New York City
Harvey Weinstein leaves court on January 6, 2020 in New York City. CREDIT: Kena Betancur/Getty Images.

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.

It’s claimed by Gibson’s legal team that when the actor brought up Weinstein’s name by chance during the massage, the woman had a traumatic response and Gibson understood from her that she had been sexually assaulted. Gibson does not remember the timing of the conversation, however, the prosecution will use another witness, Allison Weiner, who remembers 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 may choose to rule against it at that time.

Weinstein attorney Mark Werksman has argued that if Gibson does take the stand, the defence should be allowed to cross-examine him about widely publicised antisemitic remarks Gibson made during an arrest in 2006, and about racist statements to a girlfriend that were recorded and made headlines in 2010.

Although Lench said that a wider discussion of Gibson’s racism was not relevant to the trial, she would permit questioning about whether he had a personal bias towards Weinstein.

Weinstein’s lawyer argued that Gibson had such a bias both because Weinstein is Jewish, and because Weinstein published a book that criticised the depiction of Jews in the Gibson-directed 2004 film The Passion Of The Christ.

The defence also claimed that Gibson was trying to whitewash his image by focusing on Weinstein’s wrongdoing and asserting himself as a champion of the #MeToo movement.

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson CREDIT: John Phillips/Getty Images

But the prosecution said that Gibson had made no such suggestions about himself, and that at the time of the conversation with his masseuse he said he was discussing getting into a business deal with Weinstein, proving there was no such bias.

An email sent by AP seeking comment from a representative for Gibson was not immediately returned.

Meanwhile, New York’s highest court (the Court of Appeals) has agreed to hear Weinstein’s appeal over the case that resulted in his 23-year jail sentence.

The disgraced producer was subsequently brought to Los Angeles from his New York correctional facility for a trial that began on Monday (October 10). The trial is expected to last eight weeks.

For help, advice or more information regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape in the UK, visit the Rape Crisis charity website. In the US, visit RAINN.

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