The Sopranos actress tells court she tried to fight Harvey Weinstein during alleged rape


United States

Actress Annabella Sciorra testified that Harvey Weinstein violently raped her more than 25 years ago, becoming the first accuser to take the stand against the former Hollywood producer in his sexual assault trial.

Key points:

  • Ms Sciorra said the alleged rape occurred after Mr Weinstein came inside her home uninvited
  • Mr Weinstein’s defence suggested Ms Sciorra’s judgement and recollection was clouded by drinking
  • Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Mr Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

Mr Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women, Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann.

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He has said all of his sexual encounters with women were consensual.

WARNING: This story contains details of alleged sexual assault

Ms Sciorra’s allegation from the winter of 1993-94 is too old to be charged as a separate crime, but prosecutors hope it will show that Mr Weinstein was a repeat sexual predator, a charge that could put him in prison for life.

She told the court Mr Weinstein pinned her hands behind her head.

“He had intercourse with me as I tried to fight, but I couldn’t fight anymore because he had my hands locked,” she told the New York jury of seven men and five women.

Mr Weinstein, sitting at the defence table, took notes on a legal pad at times during the testimony.

At other points in the 1990s, she said, Mr Weinstein sent her packages with Valium and a box of chocolate penises and turned up uninvited early one morning at her Cannes Film Festival hotel room in his underwear, with a bottle of body oil in one hand and a videotape in the other.

She said he left after she frantically pushed buttons on the room phone to summon help.



Photo:

Annabella Sciorra told New York Criminal Court she could not escape Mr Weinstein during the alleged attack. (Reuters: Lucas Jackson)

As the trial wrapped for the day, prosecutors said they wanted to call actress Rosie Perez to testify that Ms Sciorra told her about the alleged attack, a request the defence opposed.

James Burke, the judge presiding over the case, said he would rule on the issue “soon enough”.

What is the #MeToo campaign?
Thousands of women are taking to social media to share their stories of sexual harassment using the #MeToo hashtag.

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 Mr Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

Mr Weinstein reshaped the independent film industry with critically acclaimed pictures such as The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love.

‘He was frightening’

Actresses Ellen Barkin, Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette sent Twitter messages of support to Ms Sciorra, best known for her role in HBO’s The Sopranos.

Ms Barkin was in the courtroom for her testimony.

Ms Sciorra told the jury that the evening of the alleged rape had started with Mr Weinstein giving her a ride home from an Irish restaurant.



Photo:

Harvey Weinstein says all of his sexual encounters with women were consensual. (Reuters: Brendan McDermid)

After dropping her off, he knocked on her door and came inside uninvited.

She testified that after forcing intercourse on her, he performed oral sex on her as she protested.

“It was just so disgusting that my body started to shake in a way that was very unusual,” she said.

“It was like a seizure or something.”

One of Mr Weinstein’s attorneys, Donna Rotunno, repeatedly asked Ms Sciorra if she had tried to get away from Mr Weinstein and whether she had fought back during the alleged rape.

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Ms Sciorra said she did not recall the details of the struggle but repeated that she felt she could not escape.

“He was frightening,” she said.

During questioning, Ms Rotunno asked Ms Sciorra about whether she had called the police, gone to the hospital or immediately told anyone she had been raped.

Ms Sciorra said she had not.

“At the time, I didn’t understand that it was rape,” she said.

Ms Sciorra told jurors that she saw Mr Weinstein several weeks later at a dinner where she tried to confront him and told him she fainted during the alleged attack.

She said he responded by saying, “that’s what all the nice Catholic girls say”.

She said Mr Weinstein leaned in and said: “This remains between you and I.”

Though he laughed, his tone was “very menacing,” Ms Sciorra said.

Defence suggests drinking clouded judgement, recollection

Ms Rotunno also suggested that Ms Sciorra’s judgement and recollection were clouded by drinking — the actress replied that she remembered having only a glass of wine with dinner — and played a 1997 clip of Ms Sciorra playfully telling late-night TV host David Letterman that she sometimes had fun with the media by making up stories such as her father raising iguanas for circuses.

Ms Sciorra said she would never lie about something as serious as sexual assault.

Who is Harvey Weinstein?
If you’ve seen Pulp Fiction, Silver Linings Playbook or the Spy Kids films, you already know more about Harvey Weinstein than you might think.

Ms 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.

She said she met Mr 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.

Ms Sciorra later acted in another Mr Weinstein-produced picture, 1997’s Cop Land, though she said she didn’t realize when auditioning that his studio was involved.

On Friday, prosecutors are expected to call Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist and assistant professor at Philadelphia’s Temple University, as an expert.

Ms Ziv will testify about “rape trauma syndrome,” including why rape victims might not report what happened to them or show obvious signs of trauma, according to court filings by prosecutors.

Wires

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news




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