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A prosecutor told jurors on Wednesday that Harvey Weinstein wielded his immense power in Hollywood to rape vulnerable young women and then to keep them silent.
Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast gave jurors a vivid recounting of multiple sexual assaults, including the story of Jessica Mann, a witness who has not previously been identified. She said Mann will testify that Weinstein violently raped her on multiple occasions and kept her trapped in an abusive relationship over the span of years.
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The prosecutor said Mann was so traumatized by Weinstein that she contemplated suicide. Hast said only after the producer was exposed, in October 2017, did Mann begin to process what had happened to her, saying Mann is now “a much smarter, braver woman than the one who was Harvey Weinstein’s rag doll.”
“She is not going to ask for your opinion,” Hast said. “What she needs is your attention, your promise and patience to really listen and see her when she tells you about her dynamic with Harvey Weinstein.”
Hast began her opening statement by displaying images of Weinstein at his height — on red carpets, and smiling with Bill Clinton. She also showed photos of each woman who will testify against him, saying each was ashamed and humiliated by her experience, adding they felt they were no match for Weinstein’s power.
“At the end of this trial, the evidence will be clear that the man seated right there was not just a titan in Hollywood — he was a rapist,” Hast said.
Hast told the stories of Mann, Annabella Sciorra, and Miriam Haleyi, whose allegations form the basis of the five-count indictment against Weinstein. She also detailed accounts of three other accusers who will offer “prior bad acts” evidence against the producer. As she did so, Hast also sought to explain why the women did not report the attacks to the police, and in some cases sought to maintain friendly relations with the producer.
“These were not mutual adult relationships,” Hast said. “These young women were pawns and pushed around by the defendant. They didn’t realize they were being lured in on false promises of professional help. They thought they got the attention of a big Hollywood [mogul].”
Hast began with Sciorra, who is expected to testify that Weinstein raped her in the winter of 1993-94. She said Weinstein pushed his way into her apartment late one night and began unbuttoning his shirt.
“She told him to get out. She told him no. But Harvey Weinstein was undeterred,” Hast said. “Annabella remembers at some point giving up the fight and just hoping it would end.”
Hast argued that Sciorra — like other victims — had internalized her trauma.
“Her world got very thin and very sad, losing her carefree personality,” Hast said. “At some point, she started drinking. Her power as a person had been stripped away the day the defendant violently raped her.”
Hast next turned to Haleyi, a production assistant who alleges that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2006. Hast said Haleyi visited Weinstein at his office suite at the Cannes Film Festival, where Weinstein asked for a massage. She deflected, suggesting he call the front desk for a masseuse. Weinstein then offered to give her a massage. She refused and left, Hast said.
“She thought he was going to give her a job opportunity, and realized he was only interested in her pretty face and body,” Hast said. “Imagine that… to be smacked down with the reality that you’re nobody that counts.”
Hast detailed Haleyi’s career ambitions, and alleged that Weinstein dangled job opportunities to stay close to her. On July 10, 2006, he had a driver pick her up and bring her to his apartment in New York. Hast said they sat on opposite ends of the couch — and then Weinstein lunged at her. He pushed her down onto a bed while Haleyi repeatedly said “no” and told him she was on her period. Weinstein performed oral sex on her against her will, Hast said.
“Miriam, again, begged him to stop, telling him she had a tampon in,” Hast said. “Harvey Weinstein simply yanked it out and continually forcibly sexually assaulted Miriam Haleyi.”
Haleyi later told a roommate about the assault, but was too afraid to go to the police, Hast said. She also talked about Haleyi’s subsequent efforts to stay on good terms with Weinstein.
“You will see that the defendant kept his rape victims, who you will meet, close — as close as he could, to make sure that they wouldn’t report,” Hast told the jury.
Next she turned to Mann. She said Weinstein first spotted her at a party and got her phone number. He later invited her to a meeting at a hotel bar. She was an aspiring actress, and felt elated that she had been noticed by the producer.
“Jessica’s audition was not as an actress, but as a victim,” Hast said.
Weinstein invited her to his hotel room, where he offered to give her a massage. She declined, but agreed to massage him instead.
“Little did she know, she had passed a test,” Hast said.
Mann agreed to go to another meeting at a hotel room, where she alleges Weisntein pulled her into a bedroom, pinned her down and forcibly performed oral sex. Hast said she faked an orgasm in order to get it over with. Hast said she then ran out of the hotel room. She subsequently made a fateful choice, which would drive her later to contemplate suicide.
“She decided to have some sort of relationship with the defendant, and over the next few months and and even years, she continued to have encounters and some sexual encounters with him,” Hast said. “He became more demanding. More demanding and violent. More violently disgusting. So disgusting. Jessica tried to put on a brave face, pretending to the world that nothing was wrong, all the while, you will learn, she was dying inside.”
Hast said Mann will testify that Weinstein raped her at a Doubletree Hotel in New York on March 18, 2013. She said Mann later went into the bathroom and found a needle, which Weinstein had used to inject himself in order to get an erection. Mann will also testify that Weinstein raped her on another occasion, and forced her to perform oral sex.
Hast also detailed the accounts of three supporting witnesses. One of them is Dawn Dunning, an actress who first told her story to the New York Times in October 2017. Dunning alleges that Weinstein offered to cast her in three movies if she would agree to have a threesome with him and his assistant. “This is how the industry works! How do you think other actresses got ahead?” Weinstein screamed at her, according to the prosecutor. Dunning ran into the hallway and fled.
Another witness, Lauren Young, will testify that Weinstein trapped her in a bathroom at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, grabbed her breast and masturbated on the floor. A third woman, a cocktail waitress, will allege that Weinstein raped her at his New York apartment in 2005. She never told anyone afterward.
“Who would believe her?” Hast asked. “He was Harvey Weinstein, and she was a waitress.”
Weinstein is facing five counts of predatory sexual assault, rape, and criminal sexual acts. If convicted, he faces a potential life sentence. He also faces four charges in Los Angeles for allegedly raping one woman and sexually assaulting Young in 2013, which carry a sentence of up to 28 years in prison.
Members of the press started lining up outside the courthouse in frigid temperatures before 4:30 a.m., in hopes of getting a seat inside the courtroom for Weinstein’s 9:30 a.m. arrival. Weinstein limped into court without the aid of his walker, though one of his assistants had it on hand in case it was needed.
Mackenzie Nichols contributed to this story.
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