Harvey Weinstein's toughest fight is looming

As an aspiring model and actress from Italy, there was a day Jenny craved the kind of attention she could easily get ...

Posted: May 3, 2018 4:23 AM
Updated: May 3, 2018 4:23 AM

As an aspiring model and actress from Italy, there was a day Jenny craved the kind of attention she could easily get today.

Now, she doesn't even want you to know her name.

Her accusations of rape against Harvey Weinstein are among five such cases under review by the Los Angeles County District Attorney. Of those cases, Jenny is considered the one with the most potential to lead to criminal charges, a source with knowledge of the case told CNN.

"It was hard psychologically," she said. "The interrogation made me come back to the situation very deeply. I was very scared, very down. I was crying."

Jenny isn't the real name of this single mother of three in her late 30s, who requested CNN refer to her by that name because she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her children. As she speaks to CNN in a quiet corner of a Beverly Hills hotel -- her first interview in six months -- she says she has emerged as a confident woman.

"The definition of myself is not a victim, I'm a very strong woman," she said. "I stand up for myself and I will stand up many other times because I have to be an example for my kids."

Through faith, Jenny says she dissolved her feelings of hatred for Weinstein, but is "pre-occupied thinking about him being out."

She's aware of reports he sought treatment in Arizona.

"I see it like a game, like he's not going to jail [because of treatment]," she said. "He's smart. He's been doing this for many years, so this is just a game."

As for her case, Jenny's attorney David Ring told CNN "the investigation is active and ongoing; there's been no lull," he said.

Ring won't permit his client to speak directly about the allegations beyond referring to a Los Angeles Times interview she gave in October, shortly after going to the police. In it, Jenny accuses Weinstein of coming to her hotel room "without warning" after a brief encounter at the Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest in February 2013.

"He... bullied his way into my hotel room, saying, 'I'm not going to [have sex with] you, I just want to talk," she told The Times. "Once inside, he asked me questions about myself, but soon became very aggressive and demanding and kept asking to see me naked."

Jenny told the paper she begged him to go away, but that he "grabbed me by the hair and forced me to do something I did not want to do," she said. "He then dragged me to the bathroom and forcibly raped me."

Through a spokesperson, Weinstein has repeatedly denied all allegations of "non-consensual sex."

Six months have passed since Jenny told her story to LAPD detectives, and she remains confident her emotional journey will lead to charges.

"I believe it's in God's hands," she said. "I can't imagine this not going in a good way. Everything will go how it has to be."

Legal experts say that the six-month timespan without charges in the case may stem from the fact Jenny did not go to the police in 2013. It was only after reports about Weinstein's alleged misconduct in The New York Times and The New Yorker, fueling the #MeToo movement, that Jenny chose to come forward.

The D.A.'s office is likely interviewing as many people as it can to verify the story, said Dmitry Gorin, a former L.A. County sex crimes prosecutor.

"The family, her priest, the friends," he said. "Did she complain to them soon after the fact? Those are called fresh complaint interviews. And those are people they're going to want to interview to assess her credibility."

A spokesperson for the district attorney declined to comment on the case.

Empowered by the Cosby case

The guilty verdict against Bill Cosby has empowered Jenny and Ring, her attorney, who sees similarities in the Weinstein case.

"Multiple alleged victims, a long history of alleged misconduct," Ring said. "The difference between the first trial [that ended in a mistrial] and the second trial is that they used the law to allow other victims to testify" in support of Cosby's primary accuser, he said.

California has a similar law that would allow prosecutors to bring additional accusers in to testify in support of a primary accuser. Legal experts say it's likely to be key to any case against Weinstein in California since the alleged incidents are years old and reliable physical evidence likely doesn't exist.

"These cases require showing criminal intent, and one way to do that is introducing prior bad acts," said former L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley. "Assuming there's even charges, there would be hearings conducted by the courts to conclude how many prior bad acts would be admissible."

But others say drawing parallels between the Cosby and Weinstein cases is futile.

"I think [the public] should not think of this as the moment everything changes," said Lisa Wayne, a criminal defense attorney and former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

She argues it was not the testimony of accusers, but the controversial use of Cosby's deposition in a prior civil case that was his undoing. In it, Cosby admitted to obtaining prescription Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with.

"It's an unheard of precedent when you bring in prior statements of the accused who believes he made statements he thought were protected," Wayne said. "The Cosby case is only proof that prosecutors are politicians."

She adds that without such dramatic evidence from the accused, a case against Weinstein would play out much differently.

The Time's Up movement -- created by female leaders in entertainment in the wake of the Weinstein scandal -- hailed the Cosby verdict as "a step towards making it clear to all that the voices of survivors will be heard and assault and harassment will no longer be tolerated."

Wayne, who is based in Denver but represents clients all over the country, says there's a fear in the criminal defense world that a pack mentality has formed among the public, where defendants are tried and convicted on social media, influencing prosecutors to satisfy the public instead of the law.

"I think of it as how we are two political parties -- we're disconnected on the issues that matter," she said. "As a woman I think it's [the MeToo movement] important, but it's important to move forward in a way that has legal traction."

"Twitter is not a friend of due process"

As high-profile as Harvey Weinstein is today, his attorney, Blair Berk, is remarkably low profile.

She largely refuses to do interviews, arguing that it only does a disservice to her clients. But as a panelist last week at a legal conference at L.A.'s Loyola Law School, Berk offered a window into the frustrating world of defending a man who has inspired a cultural shift in America.

"History teaches us that there can be so much good [with this movement]," Berk said. "But there are also things that come with that movement that can be dangerous to the cause of justice."

"Twitter is not a friend of due process," she added. "It is a time like no other I've experienced in 25 years of practice of criminal defense."

Berk pointed to comments from a Beverly Hills police sergeant, also on the panel, who said he gets frequent calls from tabloid websites asking when there will be movement in the Weinstein case.

Related: The fallout since the Weinstein scandal first rocked Hollywood

"The idea that you have a tabloid media outlet calling up every day," Berk said, "saying 'what have you done... are you prosecuting this guy'... we have to accept that it creates an enormous pressure on the system to hold press conferences and say you're doing something."

Berk later told CNN "it's incredibly dangerous for the public to presume guilt" even with a high volume of accusers. She points to the case of another client, Michael Bernback, who appeared on Bravo's "Millionaire Matchmaker." He was charged in 2015 with eight felony counts including forcible rape -- all connected to sexual encounters he set up through dating websites.

The charges were dropped on Tuesday when Berk "presented evidence to prosecutors that contradicted the claims of his accusers," she said in a statement, telling CNN the case should be a reminder about the importance of due process.

"[It] should never be treated as a bothersome or unnecessary formality," she said.

The L.A. District Attorney's Office did not comment beyond acknowledging that the charges had been dropped.

Regardless, David Ring said he would be "shocked" if charges weren't brought against Weinstein in Jenny's case, and rejects the notion that her allegations were drawn out by the #MeToo movement with little legal heft.

"You have more than 80 women who have come forward, that's not a pack mentality," Ring told CNN. "Those are allegations of serious sexual misconduct... and that's why it's so important to have this case go forward."

The high-profile accusations against Weinstein and Hollywood director James Toback are part of why the L.A. District Attorney's Office formed a sex crimes task force last year. To date, it has received 15 cases from investigating agencies, said Christina Buckley, who leads the unit.

"We had anticipated an influx of cases -- that hasn't happened so far," said Buckley, who also appeared on the Loyola panel.

At issue for many of the cases is the statute of limitations. All five cases against Toback, who denied the allegations, were dropped in early April, four because they fell out of statute.

Jenny's case against Weinstein falls within the statute of limitation laws in place at the time of the alleged incident. As of 2016, there is no longer a statute of limitations for rape in California.

"Truth always wins"

Jenny says she used to feel alone, but since bringing her case to authorities and witnessing other women speak out, she has grown stronger.

"I'm not afraid like I was all those years before," she said. "I was scared to death... but I have to be an example now for my kids."

Jenny says she will be content if Weinstein is charged in any of the open cases -- it doesn't have to be hers. Authorities in New York and London are also investigating Weinstein for alleged sex crimes.

"I just believe in justice," she said. "The truth always wins. If it comes from a different case, so be it."

She added that one of the reasons she's speaking now is to inspire other women -- not just ones with claims against Weinstein, "but in any cases -- domestic violence," she said.

"You have to be strong, you have to stand up for yourself. You can't do it for anyone else," she said. "You have to do it for you.

"A lot of people don't believe in justice, and I want them to believe you can."

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