Mel Gibson can testify at Harvey Weinstein trial, judge says

'Braveheart' star can tell of what he learnt from one of disgraced producer's accusers

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Mel Gibson can testify about what he learnt from one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers, a judge ruled in the rape and sexual assault trial of the former movie mogul.

The actor and director was one of many witnesses, and by far the best known, whose identities were revealed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The judge and lawyers took a break from jury selection for motions on what evidence would be allowed at the trial and who could testify. The witness list for the trial is sealed.

Judge Lisa Lench ruled that Gibson could testify in support of his masseuse and friend, who will be known as Jane Doe #3 at the trial.

Weinstein, 70, is accused of committing sexual battery by restraint against the woman, one of 11 rape and sexual assault counts in the trial against him.

Prosecutors said that after getting a massage from the woman at a California hotel in Beverly Hills in May 2010, a naked Weinstein followed her into the bathroom.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty, and denied any non-consensual sexual activity.

His lawyers argued against allowing Gibson to testify, saying that what he learnt from the woman while getting a massage from her did not constitute a “fresh complaint” by the woman under the law by which the film star would take the stand.

A “fresh complaint” under Californian 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.

Prosecutors said that when Gibson brought up Weinstein’s name by chance, the woman had a traumatic response and he understood from her that she had been sexually assaulted.

Oscar-winning director Mel Gibson (L) shares a laugh with actor Paul Sorvino (R) as daughter Mira Sorvino enjoys the moment at the Governor's Ball at the 68th Academy Awards, March 25 in Los Angeles. Mira Sorvino (C) holds the Oscar she won as Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Mighty Aphrodite

He did not remember the timing of the exchange, but the prosecution will use another witness, Allison Weiner, who remembers speaking to both Gibson and the woman in 2015.

Ms Lench said Gibson’s testimony would depend on how the accuser described the exchange with him when she took the stand, and she might choose to rule against it at that time.

Weinstein lawyer Mark Werksman then argued that if Gibson did take the stand, the defence should be allowed to cross-examine him about widely publicised anti-Semitic remarks he made during an arrest in 2006, and about racist statements to a girlfriend that were recorded and publicised in 2010.

Ms Lench said a wider discussion of Gibson’s racism was not relevant to the trial, but she would allow questioning on whether he had a personal bias and animus toward Weinstein.

Mr Werksman said Gibson had such a bias because Weinstein is Jewish, and because he published a book that criticised the depiction of Jews in the Gibson-directed 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ.

“Any evidence of Mr Gibson’s racism or anti-Semitism would give rise to a bias against my client, who challenged him,” Mr Werksman said.

The lawyer briefly, and mistakenly, said he thought the movie won a Best Picture Academy Award, but Weinstein, whose films once dominated the Oscars, shook his head from the defence table.

“Sorry, my client would know better than I would,” Mr Werksman said. “But it was an award-winning movie.”

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

The prosecution said 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, showing there was no such bias.

Deputy district attorney Marlene Martinez called Gibson’s past comments “despicable,” but said they had no relevance for the narrow purposes for which he would be called to the stand

Gibson’s testimony raises the prospect of two of Hollywood’s once most powerful men, who have undergone public downfalls, facing each other in court.

In one of several similar rulings Friday, Ms Lench also found that Melrose Place actor Daphne Zuniga could testify in a similar capacity for a woman known as Jane Doe #4, who Weinstein is accused of raping in 2004 or 2005.

Weinstein is already serving a 23-year sentence for a 2020 conviction for rape and sexual assault in New York. The state’s highest court has agreed to hear his appeal in that case.

He was then taken to Los Angeles for a trial that began on Monday, five years after women’s stories about him gave massive momentum to the #MeToo movement.

Friday’s arguments came a day after the premiere of the film She Said, which tells the story of the two New York Times reporters whose stories brought down Weinstein.

Updated: October 19, 2022, 5:20 AM