Leesburg - Actress Rose McGowan says the cocaine found in her Chanel wallet left behind on a United Airlines flight isn't hers. Her lawyers have suggested the drugs were planted.
Nevertheless, McGowan could face indictment in Virginia on a felony drug-possession charge after a judge found probable cause on Thursday to send the case to a grand jury.
McGowan unsuccessfully sought to have the charges dismissed at a preliminary hearing in Leesburg.
She has suggested in court papers that the drugs may have been planted by agents hired by disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. McGowan was among the first actresses to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault. Weinstein has denied rape allegations. McGowan and others say Weinstein aggressively sought to discredit his accusers.
Authorities say cocaine was found in a wallet McGowan accidentally left behind on a flight to Dulles International Airport in January 2017.
At Thursday's hearing, McGowan's lawyers presented no evidence that the drugs may have been planted. Instead, they simply argued that at least several hours elapsed between the time McGowan left the plane and it was found by a cleaning crew in the first-class section of a United Airlines cabin. They said it was impossible to account for who may have handled the wallet during that time.
"There is no evidence Ms. McGowan was aware of the presence of cocaine" in her wallet, defense lawyer Jessica Carmichael argued.
Carmichael also suggested McGowan was facing increased legal scrutiny because she's famous.
"She may be a public figure but she's a person just like the rest of us," Carmichael said.
In a statement after Thursday's hearing, another of McGowan's lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, said plainly, "There was no cocaine in her wallet when it was last in her possession."
General District Judge Dean Worcester said the legal standard for establishing probable cause to send the case to a grand jury is low, and that arguments about planted evidence are better suited for trial. He noted that the drugs weren't just found on the floor of the cabin but in a wallet with McGowan's driver's license.
Detective Jarrod Hughes testified at the hearing that he called McGowan to inform her that her wallet had been found. He said McGowan asked if she could pick it up at the airport's baggage claim. He said when he informed McGowan she would have to pick it up at the police station, she said she would come by to get it but never did.
"When she was told it was at the police station, all of the sudden she did not want to pick it up," prosecutor Rebecca Thacher said.
McGowan attended the hearing, holding hands with her lawyers as she entered the courthouse. She did not testify. Asked for comment after the hearing, she said only that it was good to be back in Virginia.
Jennifer Robinson, another of McGowan's lawyers, said after the hearing that "Rose is a brave whistleblower who has been the subject of a vicious vilification campaign by one of the most powerful men, in the most powerful industries in this country." Robinson said Weinstein hired ex-intelligence agents to investigate McGowan and undermine her credibility.
"The sooner this case is resolved, the sooner she can focus her efforts on seeking accountability for Mr. Weinstein," she said.
A grand jury will hear the case June 11. While it is possible the grand jury could choose not to indict, in all likelihood she will face an arraignment in circuit court on 12 June.