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On the second day of jury selection for a sexual assault trial expected to last two months, a lawyer for Harvey Weinstein claimed the ex-film mogul may not live to see a verdict if the conditions of his holding cell don’t change.
Mark Werksman, representing Weinstein, said that his client may suffer a heart attack or stroke because he’s held in an “unsanitary, fetid” cell alone in his wheelchair for up to four hours before being taken back to L.A.’s Twin Towers Correctional Facility, where he’s continuing to serve his existing 23-year sentence.
“It’s almost medieval — the conditions,” he said. “I’m concerned about his health and his ability to survive this ordeal. He’s 70 years old.”
Werksman added that he hates “to use the word special treatment,” but that Weinstein has pre-existing health issues, including diabetes mellitus, extensive coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and spinal stenosis, among several others. He submitted four letters from physicians to the court.
Los Angeles judge Lisa Lench responded she’ll “talk to the deputies about it” but that she’s “not sure there’s a lot to be done.” She explained that the correctional department doesn’t have enough wheelchair accessible vans to immediately take Weinstein back to Twin Towers when proceedings wrap up for the day.
Weinstein faces up to 140 years in prison on 11 counts of sex crimes, including rape, in connection with the assaults of five women from 2004 to 2013. Jury selection began on Monday.
After Weinstein, wearing a black suit with a blue tie, was wheeled into the courtroom, Werksman again raised the conditions of the holding cell. He suggested that Weinstein doesn’t have access to a toilet.
“He’s not deprived of a toilet,” Lench responded. “There is a toilet in the cell. I’m not going to let the record reflect that he’s deprived of a toilet.”
Werksman replied that it’s “virtually unusable.”
Lawyers for Weinstein have repeatedly made special requests of the court. In September, he asked for a private dentist to treat his rotting teeth because he can’t get proper treatment in jail. He said the two options he was given while detained were to have the teeth completely pulled or to let the teeth further rot. He also requested last year during his New York trial to be allowed to undergo eye surgery.
A representative for Weinstein didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Monday during the first day of trial, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a former actress and the wife of California governor Gavin Newsom confirmed that she’s among the witnesses set to testify. In an essay for HuffPost in 2017, she described an encounter with Weinstein, who invited her to meet at a hotel about a potential role.
“Like many other women, my client was sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein at a purported business meeting that turned out to be a trap,” Siebel Newsom’s lawyer, Elizabeth Fegan, said in a statement. “She intends to testify at his trial in order to seek some measure of justice for survivors, and as part of her life’s work to improve the lives of women. Please respect her choice to not discuss this matter outside of the courtroom.”
Jury selection will continue on Wednesday. Opening statements are expected to start on Oct. 21.
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