Entertainment

A Jury Has Finally Been Selected For The Harvey Weinstein Rape Trial And Gigi Hadid Is Out

After more than 100 women accused him of varying degrees of sexual assault, Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial is now underway. The jury selection process began almost two weeks ago in New York State Supreme Court, where a diverse pool of prospective jurors gathered, ready for the opportunity to participate in one of the most intense legal battles of the #MeToo movement. However, the process of selecting an impartial jury proved difficult—while 120 prospective jurors showed up that first day, many people admitted an inability to remain unbiased, which ultimately disqualified them from participating in the trial. This pattern continued the following day, when 47 of the additional 120 prospective jurors were dismissed for the same reason.

This past week, one of the people dismissed was supermodel Gigi Hadid. Hadid claimed that she could be fair and impartial if selected as a juror, but her involvement in the Hollywood social scene gave Judge James Burke pause.

Credit: Jim Haffrey / Associated Press

According to a pool reporter inside the Manhattan courtroom, Burke read a list of potential witnesses, asking the potential jurors to speak up if they knew anyone on the list. Hadid raised her hand and said, “I have met Salma Hayek.” She also affirmed that she had met Weinstein before.

“I think I’m still able to keep an open mind on the facts,” she said. But Burke was not convinced, and dismissed her from the selection pool.

Although Weinstein has been accused of harassing scores of women, the trial addresses just five charges from two accusers. The charges include predatory sexual assault, rape, and a criminal sexual act in the first degree. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Yet Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, and he maintains that all of the sexual encounters in question were consensual.

The trial is estimated to last until March, with two weeks of jury selection and eight weeks of arguments and testimony—all before actual deliberations are due to start.

Credit: Associated Press / Mark Lennihan

According to Weinstein’s attorney, Donna Rotunno, one of the major challenges with securing a jury was finding people who are able to commit to such an extensive trial. Weinstein’s defense team has also expressed concern with a perceived inability to locate impartial jurors in New York City—as a metropolitan area heavily tuned in to the media, Weinstein’s team feared that most prospective jurors have been following the case and forming opinions about Weinstein’s misconduct since it was first brought to light in 2017. According to CNN, Weinstein’s team made multiple attempts to move the trial to different cities in New York, where the likelihood of locating unbiased jurors might be higher.

On January 16, seven jurors—four men and three women—were seated. But that day, prosecutors accused Weinstein’s team of deliberately eliminating young white women from the pool of prospective jurors, as Weinstein’s lawyers had used half of their peremptory challenges to excuse prospective white women jurors who were not dismissed for bias or previously deemed unfit by prosecutors.

Why is this important, you may ask? Well, first of all, it’s illegal to use peremptory challenges to eliminate potential jurors on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or religion.

Second of all, while lead prosecutor Joan Illuzi did not clarify why a lack of white women jurors would be problematic for the prosecution, legal experts said that the defense seemed to assume that jurors of this demographic were especially likely to sympathize with Weinstein’s accusers. So, the idea is that the defense tried to limit jurors of this kind in a strategic attempt to prevent even subconscious opposition to Weinstein during the trial.

Yet defense lawyers dismissed this accusation, citing specific reasons for rejecting each individual white woman and claiming that the remaining white female jurors’ responses to a questionnaire ultimately deemed them unfit to sit on the jury.

Rotunno said that the responses to the questionnaire that aimed to determine whether prospective jurors had experienced sexual assault (or knew someone who had) ultimately determined who would be a viable, unbiased candidate for jury selection, and that the defense’s resistance to seating certain individuals “had nothing to do with race or sex.” But due to the high number of women—regardless of race—who have experienced sexual violence, this stipulation largely diminished the number of women deemed fit for consideration at all. On the first day of jury selection alone, roughly 30% of the 120 prospective jurors stepped down for bias linked to personal experiences of sexual assault.

Ultimately, the final 12-person jury is comprised of six white men, one black man, two white women, and three black women. The alternate jurors, who will only serve if one of the first 12 jurors must withdraw, include a white man, a Latina woman and a black woman.

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A Latina Firefighter in Boston Says the Department Retaliated Against Her When She Reported That She Was Sexually Assaulted by a Colleague

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A Latina Firefighter in Boston Says the Department Retaliated Against Her When She Reported That She Was Sexually Assaulted by a Colleague

Credit: Screenshot via CBS/WBZ

A former female firefighter was just given a settlement of $3.2 million by the city of Boston for what she characterized as a culture of sexual harassment, shaming, and silencing. Nathalie Fontanez says she was retaliated against by the Boston Fire Department for reporting a sexual assault she experienced at the hands of a colleague.

In 2018, Fontanez says she was sexually assaulted by fellow firefighter David Sanchez.

It all began when Fontanez joined the Boston Fire Department in 2011. The department was looking to hire fluent Spanish speakers, and Fontanez considered the opportunity a “golden ticket”. It was an opportunity for her, a single mom, to provide for her daughter without the assistance of welfare. And, she could prove to her daughter that women can do anything.

But Fontanez’s dream soon turned into a nightmare. After joining the department, she faced an inordinate amount of hazing and harassment because she was a woman and a Latina.

“I’m not a veteran. I’m not a man. I’m a Latin woman. If there was a totem pole, I was at the very bottom,” she explained. “I felt that I had to tolerate anything that came my way, because I was lucky to be there,” she said.

Per Fontanez, the incidents escalated until the day in question when she was assaulted at the firehouse by Sanchez.

After reporting the incident to her superiors, she says that her colleagues turned on her.

In a recent press conference, Fontanez explained the experience in more detail. “Incidents began to escalate and I was then shamed and labeled a trouble-maker,” she said. “The guys that I once relied on for my life’s safety now turned against me.”

While Sanchez was convicted of assault and battery and sentenced to two years of probation, Fontanez says that she was harassed and isolated by her station mates. According to her, the retaliation also included being denied a promotion and being ignored at social events.

“I was often reminded by some of my colleagues that I had taken a job from a man who could have been providing for his family, even though I was a single parent providing for mine,” she said.

Last month, the city settled with Fontanez for $3.2 million. But Fontanez says it’s not about the money–it’s about changing the toxic culture of firehouses. 

“I’m breaking my silence because I believe that women firefighters deserve equal treatment in the Boston Fire Department,” Fontanez said during the news conference. “However, at this point that is the dream, but not the reality, for many women firefighters. The department is overdue for change, and the time for change is now.”

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Melania Trump’s Former BFF Calls First Lady’s ‘What About Me?’ Reaction to U.S. Capitol Riots ‘Embarrassing’

Things That Matter

Melania Trump’s Former BFF Calls First Lady’s ‘What About Me?’ Reaction to U.S. Capitol Riots ‘Embarrassing’

Drew Angerer / Staff

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend of Melania Trump and employee of the Trump inauguration celebration, authored a book last fall about her friendship with Melania. The book, which detailed the first lady’s reaction to Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape and her relationship with the president’s favorite child: Ivanka came hard on the heels of several other damning memoirs concerning the Trumps. Now, the former friend (and adviser to Melania) is at it again.

In response to Melania’s comments on last Wednesday’s U.S. Capitol riots, Winston Wolkoff accused the first lady of being an “enabler” of her husband, Donald Trump.

In a recent interview with CNN, Winston Wolkoff accused Melania of being too little and too late with her response.

Issued five days after the attack on the Capitol, the first lady’s statement was criticized for focusing on issues related to herself rather than the harm done at the Capitol.

“I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks, and false misleading accusations on me – from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda,” Melania Trump wrote. “This time is solely about healing our country and its citizens. It should not be used for personal gain… I implore people to stop the violence, never make assumptions based on the color of a person’s skin, or use differing political ideologies as a basis for aggression and viciousness… We must listen to one another, focus on what unites us, and rise above what divides us.”

Addressing Melania’s reaction, Winston Wolkoff noted that “This isn’t the only complicit event that’s occurred throughout these four years. Melania Trump has a voice and she hasn’t used it. She has a platform, she hasn’t used it. As the First Lady of the United States of America … you have the ability to speak loudly, clearly, and for the rest of Americans. She is not just complicit, she is his enabler. And she’s his biggest cheerleader and unfortunately, she’s done nothing but that.”

When asked by CNN if she thought Melania’s statement was directed at her, Winston Wolkoff replied, “Unfortunately, Brianna, if that’s what’s on her mind, then that’s really an embarrassing thing to be thinking about at this moment in time.”

Last fall, Winston Wolkoff published a tell-all book that claimed to reveal what Melania really thinks about the president of the United States.

The new book reveals that that Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former close friend of Melania recorded the first lady speaking about the president and his children. “Wolkoff takes you into Trump Tower and the White House to tell the funny, thrilling, and heartbreaking story of her intimate friendship with one of the most famous women in the world,” says a preview of the book which is being published by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books 

The book titled “Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with The First Lady” hit shelves on September 1. It has tons of reveals.

Wolkoff says that she feels “stabbed in the back” by Melania.

“I witnessed the transformation of Melania from gold plate to 24-karat gold,” Wolkoff wrote befoe adding “Watching her now, and seeing that only the gold shell remains, I have to wonder if that’s all she ever was, and I was the sucker who bought the fake watch on the street corner.”

When it came to the Hollywood Access Tape, Melania was apparently glowing.

Wolkoff wrote about how Melania reacted in 2016 to the Access Hollywood tape in which her husband could be heard bragging about “grabbing” women by their vaginas.

“She was radiant, she was smiling,” Wolkoff wrote. “It was as if nothing happened… She knows who she married… She knew what she was getting into, and so did he.”

It’s yet to be revealed when and where the alleged recordings of Melania were done but there’s no doubt Trump likely already has a legal team on it.

After all, recording someone without their consent is illegal in many states. However, in New York and some others, only one person taking part in a conversation needs to legally consent to be recorded.

According to the book’s description, Wolkoff (also the former director of special events at Vogue and a producer of Met Galas) “met Melania Knauss in 2003 and had a front-row seat to the transformation of Donald Trump’s then-girlfriend from a rough-cut gem to a precious diamond. As their friendship deepened over lunches at Manhattan hot spots, black-tie parties, and giggle sessions in the penthouse at Trump Tower” the author “watched the newest Mrs. Trump raise her son, Barron, and manage her highly scrutinized marriage.”

Once friends, Wolkoff and Melania experienced a breaking point in their relationship over her handling of the $107 million inauguration. The spending on the inauguration prompted various questions and a federal investigation. In the book, Wolkoff claims that she became Melania’s scapegoat for the decisions of President Trump and his aides.

In response to Wolkoff’s book, a spokeswoman for Melania said “The book is not only full of mistruths and paranoia, it it is based on some imagined need for revenge… Sadly, this is a deeply insecure woman whose need to be relevant defies logic.”

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