Six women took the witness stand in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein to offer descriptive accounts of how the disgraced mogul assaulted them within the last 30 years.
Two of the women were seen as the main witnesses of the case as their accusations represent the main charges that Weinstein faced: five counts – two of rape, one of forcible oral sex and two of predatory sexual assault. The accusations of a third woman, actor Annabella Sciorra, supported a predatory sexual assault charge. Weinstein, 67, denied all charges.
Three other women were allowed to testify as “prior bad acts” witnesses, meaning their accounts are meant to show that Weinstein had a pattern of assault.
Though the six women represent only a small portion of the more than 100 women who have made public allegations against Weinstein, prosecutors in the case hoped their stories would provide concrete proof of the former producer’s abusive behavior.
Actor Annabella Sciorra vividly described how Weinstein allegedly raped her in her New York apartment sometime in the winter of 1993 to 1994.
Sciorra, 59, recalled meeting Weinstein at a private party in Los Angeles where he told her to contact him if she came across any interesting film scripts.
Later, after a dinner with Weinstein and others, including actor Uma Thurman, Sciorra accepted a ride from Weinstein. After he dropped her off at her apartment in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan, she got ready for bed, putting on a nightgown that was a family heirloom from Italy.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. It was Weinstein, who pushed the door open.
Weinstein, she said, grabbed her and led her to the bedroom and shoved her on to the bed. “I was punching, I was kicking him, I was trying to take him away from me. He took my hands and put my hands over my head,” she told the jury, holding her arms above her head in demonstration. “He raped me. I was trying to fight but I couldn’t because he had my hands locked.”
In the years following the alleged assault, Sciorra said that she became depressed, often cutting herself and turning to alcohol.
She is the only one of the six witnesses who is considered a celebrity, with roles in the hit TV series Sopranos and several movies, including The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Jungle Fever.
Sciorra’s friend, actor Rosie Perez, testified that Sciorra had called her and told her she was raped around the time the assault allegedly took place. A few months later, Perez learned it was Weinstein who allegedly assaulted Sciorra. She told the courtroom she didn’t tell the police because Sciorra swore her to secrecy.
Miriam Haley, one of the two main witnesses of the case, testified Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her at his apartment in 2006.
Haley, 42, told the court that Weinstein pushed her into a bedroom and held her down on a bed. “Every time I tried to get off the bed, he would push me back and hold me down,” she said, crying while describing the incident. “At this point I realized what was happening. I’m being raped.”
At the time, Haley was scared about reporting the incident to the police because she had worked as a production assistant on Project Runway, a Weinstein-produced show, without a US work visa, she said. Haley is a British citizen.
Haley was introduced to Weinstein in 2004 by the British director Michael White, for whom she worked as an assistant at the time.
A few months after the incident happened, Haley agreed to meet Weinstein in New York at a hotel.
“He was persistent and insistent, and he convinced me to meet him again,” she said. In the hotel room, Haley did not resist Weinstein’s attempt to have intercourse and just “laid there”, she said. “I felt numb. I felt numb. I felt like an idiot, and I felt numb,” she said.
Dawn Dunning, 40, a “prior bad acts” witness, said she agreed to meet Weinstein in 2004 at a hotel in Manhattan for what she thought was going to be a business meeting.
Weinstein appeared at the door of his hotel room, dressed in a white robe with what looked like nothing underneath. On the coffee table were three sets of documents.
“Here’s contracts for my next three films. I’ll sign them today if you have a threesome with me and my assistant,” Weinstein told her, she said.
She laughed thinking it was a joke and turned to leave, when Weinstein became angry and told her “You’ll never be a part of this business. This is how the business works. This is how actresses got where they are.”
Dunning met Weinstein when she was a waitress at a nightclub. Weinstein told her that he could help her break into the industry.
Model Tarale Wulff, 43, the second “prior bad acts” witness, told the jury she met Weinstein when she was waitressing in 2005. Weinstein was friends with the owner of the restaurant, Cipriani, and got special seating.
When Wulff brought Weinstein his drink, he asked her what she did and she said she was an actor. “He said that ‘you have a great look, you should come talk to my people,’” she recalled.
Later that night, Wulff was standing at the bar when Weinstein grabbed her arms. He walked her through a passage where people usually went to have private conversations. He led Wulff upstairs. Once she was standing in front of him, he began masturbating.
“ I just froze for a second, then I just threw the towel and ran past him.”
Later, a Weinstein employee contacted her asking her to read a script at the Weinstein Company’s offices. When she arrived at the office, she was told, “Harvey wants to see you,” and was ushered to a car. She thought they were going to a coffee shop, but instead, she was taken to Weinstein’s apartment.
There, she heard Weinstein’s voice coming from a room. When she entered the room, he took her arms and put her on the bed. When she realized what was happening, she said: “I can’t.” Weinstein said “Don’t worry I have a vasectomy.”
Wulff said she froze and felt numb. She thought it would be easiest to endure it.
Second key witness
The testimony of the second key witness in the case spanned three days that culminated in over 12 hours of testimony. The witness often was emotional and was, on one day of her testimony, so inconsolable that the judge ended the day’s session.
The Guardian is not naming her because she has not indicated publicly whether she is happy to be identified.
During her testimony, the witness unraveled a complex, emotionally fraught relationship she had with the fallen producer that lasted through 2016. She said that the relationship was at times consensual, though Weinstein was emotionally manipulative, switching between “Jekyll and Hyde” personalities.
The witness first met Weinstein at a party in the Hollywood Hills in 2012 and became close to her as the witness began to see him as a mentor who could help her fulfill her dream of becoming an actor.
Often through tears, the witness described how Weinstein coerced her into various physical interactions. At a hotel in New York in 2013, Weinstein brought her to a room where she said he raped her after blocking her from leaving the room multiple times.
Multiple other sexual interactions were described in detail.
When asked to describe Weinstein’s physical features, the witness said that Weinstein had severe scarring on his body, as though he had been burned. She also said that he appeared intersex.
Three times when the witness was with Weinstein, the former producer made calls in front of her to Bill Clinton about Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She said: “It was intimidating to me because you’re raising that much money … you’re that powerful of a person where you could just call them up on your phone.” She said knowing how much power Weinstein had discouraged her from reporting to the police.
Weinstein’s lead attorney, Donna Rotunno
accused the witness of lying on multiple occasions and manipulating Weinstein by giving the impression that she was sexually interested in him. “You stuck around for the rest of 2013, the rest of 2014, the rest of 2015, the rest of 2016,” Rotunno told the witness.
At one point during cross-examination, the witness turned to the jury to explain the relationship: “I’m not ashamed and that’s why I’m still here,” she said. “I know it’s complicated and difficult but it doesn’t change the fact that he raped me.”
The third “prior bad acts” witness, Lauren Young, 30, said that Weinstein groped her in a Los Angeles hotel bathroom in 2013.
An acquaintance invited her to a hotel in Los Angeles, and she went in hope of showing Weinstein a script she was writing based on her life. The film producer appeared in the lobby, and after conversation with the two women, led them up to his hotel room.
There, she followed Weinstein through a living room, down a corridor and into the bathroom. Suddenly, her acquaintance closed the door on her and Weinstein. Young said Weinstein turned on the shower and started undressing.
Young said Weinstein pushed her back against the sink and unzipped the white lace dress she was wearing and began to grope her breast as he masturbated.
“I said ‘no, no, no’, the whole time; that I had a boyfriend; that I wasn’t interested,” she testified. “He’s carrying on with the conversation, ‘This is what all the actresses do to make it.’”
During cross-examination, Weinstein’s lawyer brought out the dress that she wore that night and held it up, wearing gloves. Young said she found it recently and realized she had not worn it since that night.