Harvey Weinstein accuser Jessica Mann, returning to testify in the former mogul’s rape trial a day after she left the courtroom in tears and hyperventilating, spoke in an often-barely audible voice this morning as she fielded questions from Weinstein’s defense about the seemingly affectionate email relationship in which she engaged with the now-disgraced producer even after the alleged instances of sexual assault.
Weinstein defense attorney Donna Rotunno presented Mann with one email exchange after another that suggested a by turns friendly and professional relationship between Mann and Weinstein. The emails stood in stark contrast with the image of Mann presented earlier this morning in testimony by Italian actress Emanuela Postacchini, with whom Weinstein allegedly attempted a sexual threesome involving Mann. Postacchini testified that Mann, apparently surprised by the attempted hotel room encounter, was so upset that she ran crying from the hotel bedroom, taking refuge on a bathroom floor in what Postacchini described as a “fetal position.”
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Following Postacchini’s appearance today, Mann was recalled to the stand to continue the cross-examination that was halted yesterday when she grew distraught. The emotional moment came Monday as Mann was reading a lengthy email she’d sent to a boyfriend in 2014, in which she defended Weinstein as a father figure who “validated” her. Mann became too distraught to continue yesterday when she reached a part of the email – submitted into evidence by Weinstein’s defense – in which she referenced a previous sexual assault in her life. (Today, Mann indicated she’d been assaulted when she was younger by a member of her church.)
In the trial currently underway in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, Mann alleges that on several occasions beginning in 2013, Weinstein raped her orally and vaginally in encounters that began with him demanding a massage at a suite at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills after the two had met there to discuss a possible role in the film Vampire Academy. Another assault, she says, occurred the following year at a New York hotel when she was visiting the city with two friends.
Weinstein has maintained that all sexual encounters with all of his accusers have been consensual. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Rotunno questioned Mann today about various times the former aspiring actress reached out to Weinstein for help and career support after the 2013 and 2014 incidents of alleged sexual assault. In one email, Mann had asked Weinstein to sponsor her membership with the Soho House in Los Angeles.
“You want the ladies and the gentlemen of this jury to believe the person you wanted to sponsor you was your rapist?,” Rotunno asked.
“I do want the jury to know he was my rapist,” Mann responded, calling the sponsorship “irrelevant.”
“It is relevant,” Rotunno snapped back.
In another example of Mann apparently seeking Weinstein’s assistance, Rotunno asked about a 2016 “venture capitalist” project in which Mann had told prospective partners about her ties to Weinstein.
“You traded on the relationship you had with Mr. Weinstein? You used him?,” Rotunno asked.
“People, if they know you know him, it opens doors,” Mann replied.
The defense attorney then asked, “Any time you could get some help with money projects, you mentioned him?”
Said Mann, “I was living in a garage in Compton,” and that “at this point he was actually being really nice to me.”
Rotunno also presented a lengthy email Mann had written to the relationship advice website Relationships Reinvented. In Mann’s email to the platform, written in 2014 following the break-up of a relationship with a boyfriend identified as Eddie, Mann recounted conversations with Eddie in which she repeatedly defended Weinstein while the boyfriend expressed his disdain for the producer. Mann wrote on the website that Eddie, who seemed to suspect the mogul was behind a professional setback he had suffered, called Weinstein “probably the most vindictive person in this f*cking industry.” Mann’s repeated defenses of Weinstein, Eddie said (according to Mann’s account), were “naive.”
Rotunno suggested that Mann, in her discussions and arguments with Eddie had “multiple chances” to tell the boyfriend that Weinstein had assaulted her but did not. Mann responded that she was “ashamed” to open up about Weinstein to her boyfriend.
In other emails Mann wrote to Weinstein in the months and even years following the alleged assaults (“tons of emails,” Rotunno said), she accepted party invitations, expressed gratitude (“I feel so fabulous and beautiful, thank you for everything”) and even sought consolation following another romantic break-up (“Rough day,” she wrote. “When are you back in L.A., my friend?”). Still other emails – sent by Mann to various friends – mentioned Weinstein in friendly or professionally beneficial terms.
Earlier in the trial, the district attorney had attempted to prepare the jury for this line of questioning with testimony from a forensic psychiatrist who said rape victims often maintain contact with their abusers.
Mann’s testimony is expected to continue following today’s lunch break.
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