Five years ago today, reporters Jodi Cantor and Meghan Twohey published “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades” in The New York Times, igniting a movement that would come to be known as #MeToo. That fiery reckoning brought forth new accusers and accused for months and years thereafter, but is far from burning out.
This week marks a convergence of several high-profile #MeToo cases, including a final circling back to the original villain Harvey Weinstein. The disgraced movie producer, along with actor Kevin Spacey, director Paul Haggis and actor Danny Masterson, all face separate trials this month for incidents that came to light when #MeToo was still raging.
Spacey’s trial begins first, in a federal court on Thursday in New York. He is accused by fellow actor Anthony Rapp of an assault at Spacey’s home in Manhattan in 1986, when Rapp was 14. The “Rent” and “Star Trek” actor, the first to bring accusations against Spacey in 2017, is seeking $40 million in his civil trial – the first time Spacey will face a jury after multiple men leveled accusations of misconduct against him.
Further allegations against Spacey led to criminal charges in the UK – where he pleaded not guilty this summer and faces a separate trial next June – as well as being fired from Netflix’s “House of Cards.” A $31 million damage award for “House of Cards” producer MRC over costs of writing him out of the Netflix series was upheld by a judge this summer.
The other three trials begin next week.
Jury selection begins in Los Angeles next Wednesday for the second criminal trial involving Weinstein, who was convicted of a third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sexual act in 2020 in New York City. The former Weinstein Company head has been serving a 23-year sentence while awaiting appeal in that case. The Los Angeles criminal case, which is expected to run six weeks or more, involves 11 new felony charges involving five women who accuse him of sexual assault between 2004 and 2013. He faces up to 140 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Down the hall in that same downtown Los Angeles courthouse, Masterson is facing criminal accusations from three women who claim they met the “That 70s Show” star through the Church of Scientology and were assaulted in the early 2000s. If convicted, Masterson faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in prison in a trial that could last up to a month.
Lawyers for Masterson, a prominent Scientologist, had sought to exclude the Church of Scientology and its influence from his trial.
Paul Haggis, however, successfully argued to have the role of Scientolology included in his trial since the former Scientologist intends to claim he’s the victim of a smear campaign at the hands of the church he left and later publicly criticized.
The Oscar-winning “Crash” director was first accused of sexual assault in a 2017 civil lawsuit brought by publicist Haleigh Breest, a case that was delayed nearly six years due to the pandemic and court backlogs. Four more women have since come forward with accusations – three in support of Breest’s lawsuit, and a British national who accused Haggis of raping her in June at a film festival in Italy, where Haggis may yet have to return to face charges.
In all likelihood, all four cases will be resolved before December.