The wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) took the witness stand Monday in disgraced Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial, describing her first meeting with the movie mogul as “like the red sea was parting” before moving into a highly emotional recounting of a hotel encounter she called “my worst nightmare.”
“I’m standing — I’m resisting — against the bed. And he’s touching my breasts and touching himself,” Jennifer Siebel Newsom said.
Crying heavily, Siebel Newsom told a packed courtroom about Weinstein forcing himself on her in a Beverly Hills hotel room in September 2005, first penetrating her with his fingers before forcing his penis into her.
In loud and emphatic testimony that gripped jurors and drew tears from people in the packed gallery, Siebel Newsom said she could tell that Weinstein “knows this is not normal, he knows this is not consent” before shouting through tears, “Oh, God!” She said felt “Horror. Horror. I’m trembling. I’m like a rock. I’m frigid. This is my worst nightmare. I’m just this blow-up doll that I’m just trying to masturbate off of.”
Identified in court as Jane Doe 4, the self-described “First Partner of California” will continue testifying Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench’s courtroom at the main criminal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Though he was not in the courtroom, a reporter confirmed that the governor was at the courthouse for his wife’s testimony.
Siebel Newsom took the stand about 11:45 a.m. for about 15 minutes before the standard noon break, then retaking the stand about 1:30 p.m. for another 2 1/2 hours. Four sheriff’s deputies stood at the courtroom door for much of her testimony.
She began by describing how she met Weinstein at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2005 in Canada. At the time, she was an actress and producer, and she “knew, broadly speaking, about Harvey Weinstein.”
She began to cry when Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Marlene Martinez asked, “Do you see that person here in court today?”, answering “yes” and saying, “He’s wearing a suit and a blue tie, and he’s staring at me.”
She said their first meeting was in the early evening or late afternoon. She was “huddled in a hotel area with some friends, guy friends who were in the industry in various ways, and a girlfriend I was working on a project with.”
“Something kind of happened and there was this big person coming toward me, and everybody sort of like backed away. Then Harvey Weinstein introduced himself to me,” Siebel Newsom said. “He was like the kingmaker. He was the top of the industry.”
At the time, Siebel Newsom was “a working actress” with small roles guest staring on TV shows and in films. She was working “on some short films,” and she’d “been in two features” in “small roles.”
“Yes, Harvey Weinstein was more powerful than me,” she said. Martinez said she wouldn’t ask her who her current husband is, but she asked if she’d met him yet. Siebel Newsom said no, she was in a different relationship at the time.
During the initial meeting with Weinstein, “He came directly to me and people sort of backed off. He wanted to know who I was, what my name was, why I was there.” They moved to a quieter area, and Weinstein said he wanted to meet up with her later.
“I felt like I had to, like ‘OK, sure,'” Siebel Newsom said. But she also “felt like there was a genuine interest in talking about my work.”
She met Weinstein at the hotel bar later, describing him on the witness stand Monday as “very charming.”
“He saw that I was smart…He was really focused on telling me I was special and I was different,” she said. Weinstein asked for her phone number, “so we could continue the conversation when we were back in Los Angeles.”
“I thought that he would reach out in the future to talk to me more about, give me advice on work,” she said.
Siebel Newsom heard from him a few weeks later when he told her he was going to England to learn to stop smoking, then would be in Los Angeles. At the time, she hadn’t yet met her now-husband and was living in nearby West Hollywood. He told her he had a gift for her, Siebel Newsom said, then “showed up in a big black SUV at my little home.” She was hosting a party with “a bunch of friends,” so Weinstein’s arrival was “really awkward.” He handed her a book “on the studio producer from the golden age, Louis B. Meyer.”
“It was weird energy. I took it as he was very self-conscious because he was Harvey Weinstein and these were just a bunch of my peers,” Siebel Newsom said. He left after about five minutes.
“He said, ‘I’ll be in touch. I’d like to have a meal with you or a drink or something and continue the conversation. We can talk about your film projects,'” she said. She said Weinstein seemed “very proud” of the book he’d given her, because “I guess maybe this was a mentor of his.”
“And ironically, Louis B. Mayer was a sexual predator,” Siebel Newsom said, crying. Lench struck the comment from the record after Weinstein’s lawyer Mark Werksman objected for lack of foundation.
Weinstein later called inviting Siebel Newsom to meet him at Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, telling her he “was interested in helping me with my career, and wanted to talk more to me about it to offer advice and support.”
“I said, ‘Sure,'” Siebel Newsom testified Monday. “It was the most prolific producer in Hollywood, and I said, ‘Sure, OK. I was free at that time.'”
She was “confused” and “a little hesitant” when she arrived and was informed through Weinstein’s assistant that the meeting would be upstairs in Weinstein’s suite.
“I was expecting to meet him where the noise and the buzz was and there was all this conversation. I was just confused and I didn’t know what to do,” Siebel Newsom said. She took the elevator upstairs and was greeted at his room door by an assistant. She was uncomfortable by the “very opulent” setting, with “room service with the silver trays” and an atmosphere that wasn’t what she expected.
“It felt a bit like a date,” she said. She was “nervous and kind of uncomfortable,” but she “just tried to be present.”
Asked why, she said, “Because you don’t say no to Harvey Weinstein.”
Martinez asked why not.
After pausing, Siebel Newsom answered, “He could make or ruin your career.”
“I thought I was going to discuss my projects, I had a film project in Africa, I had a film project in India that I’d written as well,” she said. She could hear others exit the suite and said Weinstein appeared “anxious and harried” and “wasn’t interested at all in talking to me about my projects, it’s like his head was not there.”
He said something about getting something to eat, then “abruptly got up and said, ‘I’m going to go get more comfortable,'” Siebel Newsom said. She was “confused” and “thrown off” but “didn’t know there was danger.” She cried deeply as she recalled how Weinstein said, “Can you help me?” from down the hall, and she walked to where he was and saw him “bent down and there was this bright light, and he was in a bathrobe.”
“I thought maybe he was hurt, and I didn’t understand,” Siebel Newsom said, crying. “Then I saw that he was touching himself, and he grabbed me. And he tried to get me to touch him.”
“He just, like, ‘C’mere,’ and honestly, I panicked. And I just was, like, frozen,” she said. She said the situation “was like a complete manipulation of why I was there. And I just remembered physically trying to back away.”
“I was like, ‘Please don’t. Please don’t.’ It’s OK. I remember getting kind of rattled. I was just like, ‘Please don’t,'” she said. “I back-pedaled and he would go toward me, just sort of this cat-and-mouse thing in this little area.”
But, she said, “I was also trying to just be gracious and not be angry. I was just delicately trying to move away from him.”
Weinstein’s demeanor “softened, like he was trying a different approach, because I was shaking.” He grabbed her and pulled her toward the couch, she said, and she felt briefly thought he was asking for forgiveness when he “went into this diatribe.”
“At this point, I was really really tired. I couldn’t think,” she said. Martinez asked if Weinstein was “redirecting” her and Siebel Newsom answered, “Yeah, like you do with kids.”
“He talked about his ex-wife and how I reminded her of him,” she said.
“I was trying to make him like see me and have some empathy because it was all about him and his needs. I was trying to slow it down, so I told him about losing my sister when I was young,” she said. “I was trying to snap him out of this fervor. To soften him to have some empathy for me.”
She said she was “exhausted like I am right now” on the witness stand.
“There was just mental jujitsu in trying to defend myself,” she said. She said she can’t remember if Weinstein carried or dragged her toward the bed. Martinez said she’s previously said she was dragged by her arm, and Siebel Newsom said, “That’s what I’m trying to explain, as I’ve been waking up with nightmares for the past month, I do believe that it was some kind of combination of that.”
But she’s still “not clear on” whether she’s being dragged or is walking.
“When I have awakened with nightmares, some of the transitions were less clear to me,” Siebel Newsom said. She was “100 percent” shaking when she got to the bedroom, where she said the rape occurred. That’s where Weinstein first penetrated her with his fingers before forcing his penis into her.
“It’s not staying in because his penis is so weird and messed up. He realizes this,” she said. “I was just worried I was going to get some disease, it was so gross.”
Weinstein “puts his tongue in my vagina,” Siebel Newsom said, and she was “afraid of what he was doing, putting his body into my body, and hurting me.”
“I’m crying. I’m trembling. I’m shaking, and I’m frozen, too. I’m frozen. I don’t know what to do,” Siebel Newsom said. “And then he tries to climb up and stick his penis in me again. He’s kind of at an angle. I found the strength to just like move over to the side. And then I just, because I couldn’t have him in me anymore.”
“So I used my hand on his penis … to try to make him stop,” she continued.
She described Weinstein as “so determined, just so scary. Just all about him and his pleasure. His need for satisfaction, so I just did it to make it stop.”
She said she “just made some noises to get him to ejaculate faster. Just like pleasure noises.”
“There was silence on my part. I just remember not having words. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there,” Siebel Newsom said, crying. “Pardon my language.”
She said Weinstein was saying things about being boyfriend and girlfriend, “and I just thought I was going to throw up.”
“He just said what would it be like introducing me to my dad, and I just thought ‘oh my God, this is so disgusting, so wrong,'” she said. “He was already controlling afterwards, controlling the narrative.”
Asked to specify body size, Siebel Newsom said she’s a little over 5-foot-7 and weighed 115 pounds then. Weinstein was “over 6 feet, must have weighed 300 pounds.”
She described Weinstein’s body as having “lots of bruises, markings, yellow and green, lots of stretch marks on his belly, very not physically fit at all.”
“Looked uncircumcised and strange though, kind of fish-like, the penis, something was distorted in the testicles… Lots of skin, lots of skin down there,” Siebel Newsom said. “I just remember being shocked by everything.”
She said “it was like The Twilight Zone” and “an out-of-body experience.” She remembers getting her car from the valet and driving on Santa Monica Boulevard, not knowing whether to go home or to her boyfriend’s home.
“I was trying to process what happened. I remember crying, and telling myself ‘that didn’t just happen Jen. It’s OK, you’re gonna be fine,'” she said. “I just saw myself sobbing in the bed and just crying. I felt so alone, so scared and so alone.”
Weinstein called her the next day, asking how she was and if she got home OK. He said “maybe I can help you with some role or something,” but Siebel Newsom said, “I was like ‘I don’t want to give you anything’ because I felt like he had just taken a part of me.”
She said she felt “tremendous shame and basically was still processing this all.”
“He had taken a piece of me,” she said, and “I was just playing the game.”
“I was just pretending like nothing happened and putting that in a box over here and moving on with my career,” she said. “So much shame. I was so violated and I don’t know how that happened. I didn’t see the clues and I didn’t know how to escape.”
She recalled seeing Weinstein a couple times in social situations alter, including at the Screen Actor Guild with Newsom, who was her boyfriend at the time, in 2007.
They had a “quick but really uncomfortable” interaction. She also say him at the Cannes Film Festival around 2007 and said he was “weird” and she told “the person whose house we were staying with because I was really triggered.”
“And I remember calling my husband and being really emotional that night,” Siebel Newsom said. Asked why, she said crying and in a high-pitched voice, “Because he’s scary. He’s scary, and he totally, like, robbed a piece of me.”
“He, like, destroyed me emotionally and physically. It made being in the entertainment industry really hard. And not enjoyable,” she said. She said she also saw Weinstein at the Oscars in 2013, when a documentary she produced about sexual assault in the U.S. military called The Invisible War was nominated for best documentary feature.
“I was going to say, ‘We have a problem in this industry’ if I’d gotten on the mic that night,” Siebel Newsom said. Judge Lench struck the comment after sustaining Werksman’s objection.
“I was raised to be polite, so I said ‘Hi, Harvey,'” Siebel Newsom said.
Siebel Newsom also saw Weinstein at a luncheon, and she expanded on what she said earlier about putting it in a box.
“I kept telling myself, ‘I’m a survivor. I survived my sister dying. I can wake up the next day, and I can go to work, and I can be protective, and I’m a survivor. That was my way of surviving,” she said.
Martinez went over emails she sent Weinstein in the years after, asking her why she sent them. In one, she introduced a friend to him through her agents.
“By that time I believe I’d communicated to enough people that he was dangerous,” she said. In another email, she asked Weinstein for advice dealing with the press amid a scandal over Newsom, then mayor of San Francisco, having an affair.
“I believed that Harvey Weinstein had relationships with the press and understood how to handle the press, and thought he could be helpful,” she said. But she was never again alone with him.
She also said she believes she “once” asked Weinstein for a campaign donation, but “I believe my husband gave the money back later.”
“He was affiliated with the Democratic party and had given major donations to Democrats. At the time my husband was running for office and I wanted to be helpful to my husband,” she said.
Werksman began his cross-examination by focusing on the campaign donations and when, exactly, Siebel Newsom told her husband she’d been assaulted by Weinstein.
“I told him that Harvey was sketchy at different times, and he picked up on it himself when he met him,” she said. She said Newsom “knew something was off when we were at the SAG Awards and the way Harvey looked at me.”
It was Newsom’s 50th birthday “and I was having an emotional meltdown,” Siebel Newsom said, before Judge Lench agreed with Werksman that the answer was non-responsive to the question. The judge instructed Siebel Newsom to answer Werksman’s questions. Werksman asked if Newsom had accepted a donation “from somebody you hinted had done something despicable to you.”
“It’s complex,” Siebel Newsom answered.
“Well, is that just politics? That you just take money from someone who has done something despicable to your wife unless everybody finds out about it?” Werksman asked, but Lench sustained Martinez’s objection then told everyone to slow down and stop talking over each other.
Werksman is to resume his cross-exam tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. Pacific time.
Siebel Newsom also testified briefly about telling her friend Daphne Zuniga briefly about Weinstein during a hike.
Zuniga, whom Siebel Newsom said Monday had become “a mentor to me, almost like a big sis,” testified last Tuesday that Siebel Newsom told her about meeting with Weinstein while they hiked in Franklin Canyon in Beverly Hills in late 2005. They’d been good friends since meeting at the Los Angeles International Airport when they were both late for the same flight, and Zuniga said Siebel Newsom’s demeanor changed when their conversation turned to Weinstein.
“It was a change from just walking on this hike. She looked down and away,” said Zuniga, who is known for playing Jo Reynolds on Melrose Place and Princess Leia in the 1987 movie Spaceballs. “Her body seemed not as it just had been walking.”
“I always had known her to be positive, upbeat, looks you in the eye, lovely energy,” Zuniga said.
But Siebel Newsom obviously didn’t want to talk about what happened with Weinstein, the witness said.
“She just said she had had a meeting with Harvey Weinstein and I asked how it went, she said, ‘Not good. I don’t want to talk about it,'” Zuniga said. “And that’s when she was upset and that’s why I didn’t pursue it. I was just respecting her request and she changed the subject.”
On cross-examination, Werksman pressed Zuniga about the insignificance of the conversation at the time. She acknowledged that she’d forgotten about their conversation about Weinstein until Siebel Newsom reminded her of it 16 years later as part of the criminal investigation into Weinstein.
Judge Lench laid out ground rules for Siebel Newsom’s testimony in a pre-trial conference last month.
[Images: Siebel Newsom photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images; Weinstein photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]