Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra arrived at court to come face to face with Harvey Weinstein on Thursday as prosecutors try to prove that the once powerful Hollywood producer is a serial sexual predator.
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women, Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann. Sciorra’s rape allegation from the early 1990s is too old to be charged as a separate crime, but prosecutors hope it will show that Weinstein was a repeat sexual predator, a charge that could put him in prison for life.
During opening statements on Wednesday, New York prosecutors accused Weinstein of committing violent attacks on aspiring actresses, who they said suffered shame and humiliation as they internalized trauma from the encounters.
Defense attorneys countered that emails from the accusers to Weinstein would show they maintained warm relations, which could undermine a case that appears to rely primarily on the testimony of the accusers.
Sciorra’s testimony sets up the first of several face-to-face confrontations between Weinstein and his accusers.
Weinstein hobbled into court wearing a black suit, white shirt and gold tie and without the aid of his walker for a second day running Thursday. He was heavily supported by members of his legal team. Sciorra, wearing a navy dress and gold nacklace, walked into the courthouse alongside prosecutor Joan Illuzzi.
The trial is a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement, in which women have gone public with allegations against powerful men in business and politics. Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.
Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, pictured center on Thursday, is set to come face to face with Harvey Weinstein as prosecutors try to prove that the once powerful Hollywood producer was a serial sexual predator
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York, and faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault. He said that any sexual encounters he has had have been consensual
Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court supported by members of his team on Thursday
THE WEINSTEIN JURY
18 people must be selected to make up the jury of 12 and six alternates.
The 12 jurors includes;
6 white men
1 black man
2 black women
1 Latino woman
2 white women
Weinstein, who reshaped the independent film industry with critically acclaimed pictures such as ‘The English Patient’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ has denied the allegations and said any sexual encounters were consensual. As he left court on Wednesday, he told reporters he felt ‘very confident’ about the case.
Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast told jurors on Wednesday that Weinstein raped Sciorra, 59, best known for her role in HBO’s ‘The Sopranos,’ on a winter night in 1993 or 1994. After giving her a ride home and dropping her off, Hast said, Weinstein knocked on her door unannounced, forced his way inside and assaulted her.
Her testimony about events in the mid-to-late 1990s could give the jury of seven men and five women a sense of the breadth of Weinstein’s alleged wrongdoing and insight into the power dynamics at play in his interactions with young actresses.
Both legal teams kicked off their opening statements on Wednesday. The jury heard how one accuser, named for the first time as aspiring actress Jessica Mann, says Weinstein injected an erection drug before raping her in a Manhattan hotel in 2013.
Actress Annabella Sciorra, left, with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, right, on Thursday. Her testimony sets up the first of several face-to-face confrontations between Weinstein and his accusers
Annabella Sciorra played Gloria Trillo in The Sopranos, pictured. Sciorra’s rape allegation from the early 1990s is too old to be charged as a separate crime , but prosecutors hope it will show that Weinstein was a repeat sexual predator
The court was told Weinstein used his close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton to ‘intimidate’ his victim and prosecutors also showed the jury a picture of Weinstein posing with Clinton during his presidency.
Describing the once powerful Hollywood producer as a ‘savvy sexual predator’, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast added: ‘At the end of this trial, the evidence will be clear, that the man seated right there was not just a titan in Hollywood, but a rapist.’
But Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis described how Mann called Weinstein her casual boyfriend. She is also said to have texted him: ‘I love you, I always do, but I hate feeling like a booty call.’
The Harvey Weinstein story: From studio to courtroom
1979 – Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob found independent film distribution and production company Miramax, naming it after their parents, Miriam and Max.
June 1993 – The Walt Disney Company buys Miramax for $80 million, but the brothers stay on until 2005.
May 1994 – Director Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction,’ starring Uma Thurman and John Travolta and backed by Miramax, wins the prestigious Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.
1997 – Miramax wins its first Academy Award for best picture with ‘The English Patient.’
1999 – Miramax’s ‘Shakespeare in Love’ wins seven Oscars – including best picture and best actress for Gwyneth Paltrow.
2004 – Weinstein divorces his first wife Eve Chilton, with whom he has three daughters.
2005 – The Weinstein brothers leave Miramax to set up their own production company, The Weinstein Company.
2007 – Weinstein marries English fashion director Georgina Chapman.
October 5, 2017 – The New York Times reports Weinstein settled with eight women who accused him of unwanted physical contact and sexual harassment over three decades. Weinstein in a statement apologized for causing pain to colleagues and said he was taking a leave of absence and entering therapy. Reuters did not independently verify the details of the New York Times report.
October 6, 2017 – Weinstein takes indefinite leave of absence from The Weinstein Co. The company later says he is fired.
October 10, 2017 – The New Yorker reports allegations by 13 women who said Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, including three who said he raped them. Weinstein again denies non-consensual sex. Reuters did not independently verify the details of The New Yorker’s accounts. Chapman, Weinstein’s wife, says she is leaving him.
October 14, 2017 – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that selects the Oscar winners, expels Weinstein.
October 2017 – Actress Alyssa Milano fuels the expansion of the #MeToo movement, founded by Tarana Burke, by writing on Twitter: ‘If you’ve ever been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.’ In the following weeks, #MeToo would be used by millions of women.
January 1, 2018 – Hollywood celebrities launch the Time’s Up campaign to fight sexual harassment in the workplace.
May 25, 2018 – Weinstein surrenders to New York police on charges of rape and a criminal sex act involving alleged assaults against two women, in 2004 and 2013.
June 5, 2018 – Weinstein pleads not guilty to the charges.
June 9, 2018 – Weinstein pleads not guilty to new charges of sexually assaulting a third woman in 2006.
October 11, 2018 – Weinstein wins dismissal of the charges over the alleged 2004 assault. Charges involving the other two women remain pending.
January 17, 2019 – Benjamin Brafman, Weinstein’s defense attorney, issues statement saying he is quitting, without elaborating.
January 25, 2019 – Weinstein appears in court to announce new defense team.
April 26, 2019 – Weinstein’s trial is delayed until Sept. 9 to allow defense more time to gather evidence.
July 11, 2019 – Weinstein hires third legal team after second team of defense attorneys exits the case.
August 26, 2019 – Weinstein pleads not guilty to new indictment involving the same two women accusing him of two counts of predatory sexual assault, in 2006 and 2013. His trial is pushed back to Jan. 6, 2020.
December 11, 2019 – Weinstein and his bankrupt studio reach tentative $25 million settlement with dozens of women who accused him of sexual misconduct. Representatives for Weinstein declined to comment.
January 6, 2020 – Los Angeles prosecutors announce sexual assault charges against Weinstein just hours after he appears in a New York court for the start of his trial on rape charge; Weinstein’s rape trial begins in New York.
Reporting by Reuters
Prosecutors previewed Sciorra’s testimony in a lengthy, at-times graphic opening statement Wednesday that painted Weinstein as a sexual predator who used his film industry clout to abuse women for decades.
‘The evidence will show that despite her protests, despite her fight, despite her body revolting, Harvey Weinstein felt he was entitled to take what he wanted from Annabella forcing her to live in terror of him for decades,’ prosecutor Meghan Hast told jurors in her opening statement.
That touched off several years of Weinstein tormenting Sciorra, Hast said, culminating in an incident at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 in which he arrived at her hotel door in his underwear, with a bottle of baby oil in hand.
A petrified Sciorra ran to the back of the room and started hitting call buttons, at which point Weinstein left, Hast said.
She’s one of four other accusers that prosecutors plan to call as witnesses during the month long trial.
Weinstein arrived on Thursday without the aid of his walker which had used the two weeks prior after back surgery
Weinstein, who reshaped the independent film industry with critically acclaimed pictures such as ‘The English Patient’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ has denied the allegations and said any sexual encounters were consensual. He is pictured Thursday
Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, said in his opening statement that Weinstein could not have gotten to Sciorra’s 17th floor apartment uninvited because her building had a doorman, and that Sciorra had in the past described the encounter as consensual.
He questioned the validity of Sciorra’s account, saying she once told a friend that she ‘did a crazy thing and had sex with Harvey Weinstein’ and that she had a consensual encounter with him.
‘At the end of this trial, the evidence will be clear, that the man seated right there was not just a titan in Hollywood, but a rapist.’
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast on Harvey Weinstein
‘She didn’t describe it as rape because it wasn’t,’ Cheronis said.
Cheronis offered a similar defense for the other accusations against his client. In each case, he said, women had reframed consensual relationships as predatory after the fact.
Cheronis said emails and text messages would show that Haleyi, who has said Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006, repeatedly reached out to him in the following years. Mann, whom Weinstein is accused of raping in 2013, even told Weinstein she wanted him to meet her mother after the alleged attack, Cheronis said.
Hast said that the women kept in touch with Weinstein because they ‘felt trapped.’ She told jurors they should not discount the allegations simply because Weinstein did not fit the profile of a rapist grabbing victims ‘in a back alley.’
‘Here the rapist was at the pinnacle of the very profession his victims strived to make a career in,’ she said.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE BIGGEST TRIAL OF THE #METOO ERA – THE CHARGES AGAINST WEINSTEIN
Harvey Weinstein, once one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and criminal sexual assault.
Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting production assistant Mimi Haleyi, pictured, in 2006 and raping another woman in 2013
Who are the accusers?
More than 80 women have publicly accused Weinstein, 67, of sexual misconduct, helping to fuel the #MeToo movement over the last two years. The criminal charges against him refer to just three accusers.
Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant on a Weinstein Company television show, has said that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in his Manhattan home in July 2006.
Actress Annabella Sciorra, best known for her role on HBO’s ‘The Sopranos,’ has said Weinstein raped her in her Manhattan apartment in 1993.
Prosecutors have accused Weinstein of raping another woman in March 2013 in Manhattan. She was named as aspiring actress Jessica Mann for the first time in court on January 22.
Weinstein has said that any sexual encounters he had were consensual.
What are the charges?
Weinstein is charged with a criminal sexual act in the first degree against Haleyi, and with rape for the 2013 allegation against Mann. He is charged with predatory sexual assault over both allegations.
Sciorra’s allegation is too old to be the basis of a separate charge, but is a crucial part of the predatory sexual assault charges, which require prosecutors to establish a pattern of serious sex crimes against multiple women.
Predatory sexual assault is the most serious charge against Weinstein, carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Who will testify against Weinstein?
Haleyi, Sciorra and Mann are almost certain to testify in a trial that could last until early March.
Prosecutors will also call three other women to testify about encounters with Weinstein, even though he is not formally charged with crimes against them. Their testimony is intended to bolster the charges by showing that Weinstein had a consistent pattern of behaviour.
Prosecutors have also said that they expect to call Barbara Ziv, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, to testify as an expert on the trauma resulting from sexual assault.
The Hollywood mogul climbed up the stairs as he arrived at a Manhattan courthouse on January 8
What is Weinstein’s defense?
Weinstein’s lead lawyer, Donna Rotunno, told Reuters that Weinstein had a ‘slew of witnesses ready to go.’ She has said the defense would be introducing emails and text messages to prove that Weinstein’s accusers maintained relationships with him after his alleged assaults.
His lawyers have also said they plan to call psychologist Deborah Davis of the University of Nevada, Reno, to testify as an expert on memory, suggesting that Weinstein may try to call his accusers’ recollections into question.
What other legal risks does Weinstein face?
Even if he is acquitted in Manhattan, Weinstein faces separate criminal charges announced on Jan. 6 by prosecutors in Los Angeles. Lawyer Rotunno declined to make an immediate comment on those charges.
Weinstein was charged with sexually assaulting two unidentified women in 2013, said Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey. He was charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting the other.
Reporting by Reuters