What to Know
- One of the two women at the center of Harvey Weinstein's criminal case in New York City took the stand on Friday
- She testified that he raped her and degraded her over the course of their relationship when she was an aspiring actress
- Weinstein and his defense team has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual.
A key accuser in Harvey Weinstein’s trial testified Friday that he trapped her in a New York hotel room, angrily ordered her to undress and raped her, but that she stayed in contact with him because “his ego was so fragile” and she wanted to be seen as naive.
Sobbing at points, she described a “degrading” relationship and sometimes forcible sexual encounters with Weinstein when she was an aspiring actress in her 20s. She told jurors that Weinstein could be charming but furious in a flash. She said he urinated on her at one point and that he once tried to kiss her as they tussled, then wouldn’t let her leave until he performed oral sex on her.
“If he heard the word ‘no,’ it was like a trigger for him,” she said.
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The 34-year-old woman’s allegations form a basis for the most serious charges against the former Hollywood tycoon who became one of the #MeToo movement’s top targets. He is charged with raping her in 2013 and sexually assaulting Mimi Haleyi, a former “Project Runway” production assistant, in 2006. A conviction could put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
The rape accuser's testimony marked a pivotal moment for both prosecutors and Weinstein’s defense. His lawyers planned to raise doubts about her credibility by seizing on her complicated history with the former film producer.
Weinstein’s lawyers say the woman later sent him warm — even flirtatious — emails that said things like “Miss you, big guy." Not once, in more than 400 messages between the two, did the woman accuse Weinstein of harming her, his lawyers have said.
Weinstein, 67, denies any sexual encounters that weren’t consensual.
The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of sexual assault accusers without their consent. It is withholding name of the rape accuser because it isn’t clear if she wishes to be identified publicly.
The woman testified that she moved from Washington state to Los Angeles to pursue acting and met Weinstein a party in late 2012 or early 2013.
The producer behind such Oscar-winning films as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction” offered to help with her acting aspirations, she said, asking her to meet him at a Sunset Boulevard bookstore to learn about movie-business history.
It was like being with “the guru of Hollywood,” she said. “I thought it was a blessing.”
He later asked her to meet him at the Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles for what she thought was a professional dinner.
When Weinstein later decided they should go to his suite after a stranger interrupted them, she followed because the thought Weinstein wanted only to avoid public attention, she said. But he pressured her into giving him a massage on the bed with his shirt off, though she told him she was “not sexual or comfortable with this with someone I don’t know.”
Another time, Weinstein invited her and a friend to a bar at a different hotel, told them he wanted to cast them in a vampire film and invited them up to a suite to give them a script, the woman said.
"Oh, no. I know what that means,’’ she said she told him. “And he laughed at me and said, ‘I am a harmless old man.’”
Weinstein started undressing, went into a bedroom and called for her. When she went to find out what he wanted, he grabbed her arm, closed the door and started “trying to kiss me like crazy,” she said.
She said she tussled with him, and he grew increasingly angry and said: “I’m not letting you leave until I do something for you.” He then performed oral sex on her, she told jurors, her voice breaking.
Although she said she feigned orgasm to extricate herself from the encounter, she said she later started having “non-forcible” oral sex with Weinstein.
“I was confused after what happened and I made a decision to be in a relationship with him,” she said. While she wasn’t sexually attracted to Weinstein, she felt compassion for him and wanted his approval, she added.
Then, on a trip to New York in 2013, she set a breakfast date with Weinstein and some friends of hers at a hotel where she was staying, she said.
She said she was upset to see Weinstein checking in but agreed to go up to his room with him, thinking she could tell him off in private.
Instead, the heavyset producer held the door shut, barked at her to undress and “stood over me until I was completely naked,” she told jurors.
Then he went into another room, emerged naked and raped her, she testified. She said she ran afterward into a bathroom, where she found a needle in a trash can and believed, after some research, that he had injected himself with an erection-inducing drug.
Still, she went to a premiere of one of his films shortly afterward and stayed in touch by email, using “a lot of flattery, a lot of compliments” toward him, she said.
“His ego was so fragile,” she said. “It’s also what made me feel safe, worshipping him in this sense. … I wanted to be perceived as innocent and naive.”