Actress Annabella Sciorra testifies that Harvey Weinstein raped her
Weinstein not charged with alleged Sciorra assault, but prosecutors are trying to establish behaviour pattern
Actress Annabella Sciorra confronted Harvey Weinstein from the witness stand Thursday, telling a jury in a quivering voice that the burly Hollywood studio boss barged into her apartment in the mid-1990s, overpowered her and raped her as she tried to fight him off by kicking and punching him.
She said that a month later, she ran into him and confronted him about what happened, and he replied: "That's what all the nice Catholic girls say."
Then, she told the jury, Weinstein leaned toward her and added menacingly: "This remains between you and I."
"I thought he was going to hit me right there," Sciorra testified.
At other points in the 1990s, she said, Weinstein sent her packages with Valium and a box of chocolate penises and turned up early one morning at her Cannes Film Festival hotel room door "in his underwear with a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a videotape in the other." She said he eventually left after she started frantically pushing buttons on the room phone to summon help.
The 59-year-old actress became the first of Weinstein's accusers to testify at his trial, where the movie mogul whose downfall gave rise to the #MeToo movement is charged with forcibly performing oral sex on former Project Runway production assistant Mimi Haleyi in his New York apartment in 2006 and raping an aspiring actress in a hotel room in 2013.
Weinstein is not charged with attacking Sciorra, whose accusations date too far back to be prosecuted. Instead, she testified as one of four additional accusers prosecutors intend to put on the stand to show that the powerful Hollywood producer had a pattern of preying on women. Weinstein, 67, could get life in prison if convicted.
Defence looks for inconsistencies
Weinstein, the executive behind such Oscar-winning movies as Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love, has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual.
Recounting an accusation she said she kept largely secret for decades, Sciorra testified that after raping her, Weinstein went on to try to perform oral sex on her, saying, "This is for you," as her body "shut down."
"It was just so disgusting," she said. She said she started to shake: "I didn't even know what was happening. It was like a seizure or something."
WATCH | Actress tells Weinstein trial that he raped her in the early 90s:
The defence tried to seed doubts about Sciorra's allegations, and she gave a slightly different version under their questioning, testifying that when the producer initially pushed her onto her bed, "he was kind of, in a friendly way, trying to cajole me" into having sex. She refused and soon found herself trying to get him off of her, she said.
Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno noted that Sciorra never went to police or a doctor about the alleged rape.
"At the time, I didn't understand that that was rape," Sciorra said.
Rotunno also suggested that Sciorra's judgment and recollection were clouded by drinking. The actress said she remembered having only a glass of wine with dinner and had kicked a Valium habit that developed after Weinstein sent her pills.
In opening statements on Wednesday, another Weinstein lawyer, Damon Cheronis, argued the encounter was consensual, not rape, saying Sciorra once told a friend that she "did a crazy thing and had sex with Harvey Weinstein."
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault, unless they come forward publicly.
Sciorra drew acclaim for her part in Spike Lee's 1991 movie Jungle Fever and her role as a pregnant woman molested by her doctor in 1992's The Hand That Rocks the Cradle the next year. She later appeared on The Sopranos.
Sciorra first made her allegations in a New Yorker article in 2017.
She said she met Weinstein at an industry event in Los Angeles in 1990 or 1991. By 1993, she had starred in one of his company's movies — the romantic comedy The Night We Never Met.
She said the rape happened in late 1993 or early 1994, after Weinstein dropped her off from a movie-business dinner and then appeared, uninvited, at her door a few minutes later.
Sciorra said afterward, she started to cut herself and feel she didn't want to leave her house. At the same time, she said, she struggled with understanding that what happened to her was a crime.
"I thought he was an OK guy. I felt confused. I felt like I wished I never opened the door," she said. She said she told no one at first, not even her brothers.
"I wanted to pretend it never happened. ... I wanted to get back to my life," she told the jury. She did not come forward publicly until 2017.