LOS ANGELES — Paul Thompson wouldn’t blame his Shawnee Class of 1999 classmates if they don’t remember him.
Still, he’ll play a key role in the efforts to put a #MeToo movement figure, film producer Harvey Weinstein, behind bars.
Thompson, 38, works as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County. Earlier this year, he was assigned as the lead prosecutor on Weinstein’s charges in Los Angeles. Two women allege Weinstein sexually assaulted them in separate incidents in hotels in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills back in 2013.
“I was surprised,” Thompson said by phone last week about being handed such a high-profile case, noting he was just happy to have been put on District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s “Hollywood Task Force.” “It’s a very humbling responsibility.”
Thompson graduated from Kent State University summa cum laude in 2003, where he met his now-wife, Laura, a special education teacher. They moved to California, where he graduated from UCLA’s School of Law in 2006 and started with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in March 2007. He’s spent much of his time on the West Coast prosecuting sex crimes.
“I was an average high school student. When I got to Kent State and started studying hard, I started doing well,” he said. “That’s when I thought about law school. … I knew once I was in law school that I wanted to be a prosecutor.”
He said the most difficult part of his job is talking to victims of crimes and telling them they don’t have enough evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, so they wouldn’t be filing charges.
“My heart goes out to these victims, who you’ve talked to and you really believe they were victims of a crime,” he said. “You just can’t prove it to 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt. … That’s the hardest part, when you have to tell a victim you can’t file their case after they’ve bared their soul to you.”
Ethical standards keep Thompson from talking about his opinions on the Weinstein case. He spent four or five days in New York, watching the East Coast prosecution of the case. A jury convicted Weinstein of two felony sex crimes, including rape and criminal sexual assault. The jury found him not guilty on two charges of predatory sexual assault. He faces up to 29 years in prison when he is sentenced on Wednesday.
Thompson kept abreast of the child by reading court transcripts, which arrived at his downtown Los Angeles office around 3 p.m. most days. In Los Angeles, Weinstein faces charges of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of restraint and sexual battery by restraint.
Thompson said he eagerly read the work of investigative journalists, including Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor in The New York Times and Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker. Thompson, who worked at The Lima News in the sports department in high school, said he always found print journalism “fascinating” but decided the hours journalists work “really aren’t conducive to having a family,” given the number of nights and weekends worked.
His day job makes him extra protective of his 8-year-old daughter, who is in third grade, when he thinks about sexual assault.
“As a parent, it makes me really, well, not paranoid, but it makes me really cautious,” Thompson said. “I do think it’s pervasive. … I heard numbers like one in six women will between childhood and adult life be victimized at some point in time. It’s just so pervasive.”
He unwinds from the stresses of work by exercising and spending time with his family. He particularly enjoyed coaching his daughter’s basketball team in a YMCA league. One thing he doesn’t enjoy is social media; he dropped his social media accounts about a year ago.
“There are no standards of how truthful or not something is on social media,” he said. “You saw too many opinions based on any number of inaccurate facts. I’d just had enough, mostly from the larger political stuff.”
He returns to Ohio several times a year. While his father passed away a few years ago, his mother remains in Lima. They also visit Laura’s family in Dayton.
He said he hasn’t let the high profile of the Weinstein case affect how he does his work. He doesn’t sound impressed with possible witnesses’ acting resumes, although he still feels for what they’ve been through.
“This one has more media exposure, for sure, but there have been other cases that I’ve been really proud to have worked on,” Thompson said. “It’s kind of sad that just because the victims weren’t celebrity victims they didn’t get as much media coverage.”