Weinstein defends use of private investigators who allegedly tried to silence accusers
Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault.
Harvey Weinstein offered an unscripted defence Thursday of his use of private undercover investigators who allegedly tried to silence his accusers, saying he did it "for days like this."
The remark came as the former Hollywood producer left his New York City rape trial when a reporter asked him why he hired Black Cube, a firm founded by former intelligence analysts from the Israel Defence Forces. Prosecutors say the firm's investigators used fake identities to meet with journalists and track the accusers to thwart publication of stories about Weinstein's alleged sex offences.
The jury heard testimony about the Black Cube deal on Thursday from a lawyer who helped arrange it. Weinstein hired the firm in 2017, as reporters from The New Yorker and The New York Times were looking into his behaviour with women.
Those stories, published in October 2017, ushered in the #MeToo movement as scores more women came forward with allegations against Weinstein and other prominent figures in industries from Hollywood to Wall Street.
The jury of seven men and five women saw an email from Weinstein to someone at Black Cube reading: "Red flags are the ones of interest" — what prosecutors say was a reference to a list of names marked in red to identify accusers.
Those names included Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, who testified last week that Weinstein overpowered and raped her after barging into her apartment in the mid-1990s.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with forcibly performing oral sex on Mimi Haleyi, at the time a Project Runway production assistant in 2006, and raping another aspiring actress in 2013. That woman could testify Friday.
Weinstein has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual.
In what was the seventh day of testimony, jurors also heard the ex-boyfriend of a fledgling actress describe how she came home "pretty shocked, upset, angry" and "kind of overall appalled" after a hotel room meeting where she says Weinstein offered her movie roles in exchange for three-way sex.
Lincoln Davies, who was dating Dawn Dunning at the time in 2004, was called as a prosecution witness to bolster emotional testimony by Dunning and another aspiring actress accusing Weinstein of preying on their vulnerabilities while pushing the notion that sex could lead to stardom.
Dunning also said Weinstein put his hand up her skirt and fondled her genitals a few weeks earlier that same year. But Davies said that she never told him about that.
Also taking the witness stand was the manager of the celebrity hangout where Tarale Wulff, then a cocktail waitress, alleged that Weinstein masturbated in front of her on a secluded terrace.
Maurizio Ferrigno testified he saw Weinstein and Wulff heading up a stairway, but conceded on cross-examination that prosecutors helped jog his memory of the moment, which Wulff says happened about 15 years ago.
Weinstein's lawyer calls testimony 'an attempt ... to poison the jury'
The experiences of Dunning and Wulff, who also claims Weinstein raped her in his SoHo apartment in 2005, are not part of the underlying criminal charges against him, but their testimony could be a factor in whether he goes to prison at the end of his landmark #MeToo-era trial.
Prosecutors called them as witnesses under a state law that allows testimony about so-called "prior bad acts," enabling them to explore things like motive, opportunity, intent and a common scheme or plan.
Weinstein's lawyers objected to Davies testifying, arguing that it was unheard of to allow corroborating witnesses for accusers whose allegations aren't part of the underlying case.
Weinstein lawyer Arthur Aidala argued that bringing in witnesses to support those women's allegations was "an attempt by the prosecution to poison the jury with extrinsic evidence."
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault, unless they agree to be named or have gone public with their stories, as Haleyi, Wulff and Dunning have done.