NEW YORK - Jury selection began Tuesday in the case of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who is accused of raping one woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on another in 2006.
Jury selection began despite objections from Weinstein's attorney, who argued that the new charges against his client -- which were unveiled Monday in Los Angeles -- had been deliberately timed for publicity. Prosecutors in Los Angeles on Monday accused Weinstein of raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in 2013.
"For a prosecutor, this is Christmas morning -- the morning of jury selection to have him smeared everywhere," defense attorney Arthur Aidala said.
Judge James Burke refused a defense request for a postponement of the trial, saying he is confident the jury will understand Weinstein is presumed innocent despite the new charges in Los Angeles. He also declined a request from prosecutors to jail Weinstein, who was freed in December on a $5 million bond, USA Today reported.
According to the newspaper, Weinstein appeared in court Tuesday morning with the support of a walker due to recent back surgery. He was admonished by Burke after appearing to use his cellphone in court despite instructions not to.
“Mr. Weinstein, I implore you, don’t answer the following question,” Burke said, according to Bloomberg. “Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting in violation of a court order?”
A spokesman for the Office of Court Administration told Reuters the court summoned 2,000 potential jurors to serve in the Weinstein case, about five times the typical number. Lucian Chalfen told Reuters that, based on past experience, about 500 of those called would likely appear for jury duty.
The first 120 potential jurors were brought into the courtroom Tuesday morning to fill out a questionnaire, the first step in a jury selection process that is expected to take weeks.
The 16-page questionnaire includes 72 questions about potential jurors’ occupations, hobbies, families, work histories and other details, according to Bloomberg. Among the questions on the form: “If you have seen, read, or heard anything about the case, does that information affect your ability to be a fair and impartial juror?”
Jury selection began more than two years after allegations against Weinstein first came to widespread public attention and catalyzed the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges in New York and insisted any sexual activity was consensual. If he's convicted of the most serious charges against him, two counts of predatory sexual assault, Weinstein faces a mandatory life sentence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.