Harvey Weinstein was hit with new sex crimes charges in Los Angeles on Monday just as his high-profile trial in a separate case opened in New York, kicking off proceedings key to the #MeToo movement.
The case in California stems from a two-year investigation into allegations from several women that the disgraced movie mogul assaulted them in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.
He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and his attorney could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.
According to the charge sheet, Weinstein on February 18, 2013, allegedly went to a hotel in the Los Angeles area and raped a woman after pushing his way into her hotel room.
The next day, he allegedly assaulted a woman at a hotel suite in Beverly Hills. The two victims were not identified.
"We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them," Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement.
"I want to commend the victims who have come forward and bravely recounted what happened to them," she added. "It is my hope that all victims of sexual violence find strength and healing as they move forward."
Earlier Monday, Weinstein entered the New York state courthouse looking frail in a dark suit and using a walker, more than two years after a slew of allegations against him triggered waves of outrage over pervasive sexual assault in the workplace, leading to the downfall of dozens of powerful men.
Demonstrators anchored by actresses Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette, two of Weinstein's most prominent accusers, gathered outside the Manhattan court wielding signs with slogans like "Justice for survivors."
"Time's up on sexual harassment in all work places," Arquette said. "Time's up on empty apologies without consequences. And time's up on the pervasive culture of silence that has enabled abusers like Weinstein."
The first day in court was largely technical and lasted just over an hour, with Justice James Burke rejecting a defense request that the jury be sequestered.
Weinstein did not speak during the hearing or to reporters outside. He is unlikely to testify during the trial.
The judge inflicted a small defeat on the defense by ruling out testimony by a police detective whose mishandling of evidence led to a key accuser being dropped from the indictment.
Burke said pre-screening would begin Tuesday and proper jury selection could be delayed until January 14 with the proceedings expected to last six to eight weeks.
Almost 90 women, including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have accused the 67-year-old of sexual misconduct since The New York Times detailed claims against him in October 2017.
But Weinstein, once one of Hollywood's most influential figures, is being tried in New York on charges related to just two women, highlighting the difficulty of building cases around incidents that took place years ago.
Former production assistant Mimi Haleyi alleges that the "Pulp Fiction" producer forcibly performed oral sex on her in his New York apartment in July 2006.
The second alleged victim is anonymous. She says Weinstein, the co-founder of Miramax Films, raped her in a New York hotel room in March 2013.
"The Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra will also give evidence as the prosecution seeks to convince the jury that Weinstein engaged in a pattern of predatory sexual behavior.
A conviction would signal a watershed moment in the #MeToo movement's fight against sexual harassment and abuse of power in Hollywood and beyond.
Almost all men felled in the deluge of allegations unleashed by the #MeToo movement, be it in the world of entertainment or business, have escaped prosecution.
The only other trial on the horizon is that of R&B singer R. Kelly, who was charged last year with several assaults on young women, but allegations of sexual impropriety have dogged him for years.
American comedian Bill Cosby was sentenced to at least three years in prison in September 2018, although proceedings had started in late 2015, two years before the post-Weinstein surge of allegations.
'Strength And Courage'
On Monday, Sarah Ann Masse, an actress who says Weinstein sexually assaulted her when she interviewed for a job as a nanny in 2008, voiced support for those testifying, sending them "so much strength and courage."
"The man has spent 30-plus years assaulting over 100 women -- it's incredibly clear what happened," she told AFP.
Bars For Life
Weinstein has always maintained that his sexual relationships were consensual.
His defense team has been trying to undermine the allegations of the two New York accusers long before the start of the trial.
They have produced emails and text messages which they say show that Weinstein and his alleged victims remained in friendly contact for several months after the alleged events.
In an email interview with CNN, published Saturday, Weinstein suggested he may be able to rebuild his career in the movie business if acquitted.
"If I can get back to doing something good and building places that help heal and comfort others, I intend to do so," he wrote.
Masse voiced hope for a far different outcome: "I am hoping he goes to jail for the rest of his life."
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)