January 24, 2020 8:01:28 am
(Written by Jan Ransom and Alan Feuer)
They met at a party in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. She was an up-and-coming actress. He was a young producer. As they got to know each other over the next four years, there were, she said, some “inappropriate” gestures: a care package of popcorn and Valium, a box of chocolate penises.
Then, Annabella Sciorra said on the witness stand Thursday, Harvey Weinstein raped her.
Fighting back tears, Sciorra testified in excruciating detail to a hushed courtroom about the night she said she was attacked. After shoving his way into her Manhattan apartment, she said, Weinstein took her to a bedroom, forced her onto the bed and, as she sought to fight him off, sexually assaulted her.
“I was trying to get him off me,” Sciorra told the jury, her voice cracking with emotion. “I was punching him, kicking him.” But Weinstein held her down, she said, adding: “He got on top of me, and he raped me.”
The testimony in state Supreme Court in Manhattan marked the first time that one of Weinstein’s numerous accusers took the stand at a long-awaited criminal trial that has come to symbolize the #MeToo movement.
Several women are expected to testify during the trial that Weinstein attacked them, though Weinstein faces charges of rape and criminal sexual act based on the allegations of only two of them. The judge is allowing the others to testify to establish a pattern of behavior, even though most of their allegations are too old to qualify as crimes under state law.
Sciorra’s encounter with Weinstein also happened too long ago to be charged as rape, but prosecutors are using her testimony to bolster a charge of predatory sexual assault. That count carries a possible life sentence and requires the state to prove Weinstein committed a serious sexual offense against at least two people.
Weinstein, now 67, faces charges that he raped an aspiring actress in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forced oral sex on a production assistant in his Tribeca apartment in 2006.
Weinstein’s lawyers maintain that the women willingly had sex with him in an effort to advance their careers and that some of them continued intimate relationships with him after the alleged attacks.
Sciorra, who is best known for her role in “The Sopranos,” said the assault took place in her apartment in Gramercy Park in either late 1993 or early 1994.
That night, she said, she had joined Weinstein at an uneventful dinner with several other people at a restaurant in downtown Manhattan. Weinstein gave her a ride home, she said, and after he dropped her off at 10 p.m., she went upstairs, got into a nightgown and brushed her teeth, preparing herself for bed.
Moments later, she recalled, there was a knock at her door, and she thought it was a neighbor or her doorman. But when she opened the door, she said, Weinstein pushed his way inside.
When Weinstein unbuttoned his shirt, she said, she realized “he thought we were about to have sex.” She said that she considered running into her bathroom, but before she could, Weinstein grabbed the front of her nightgown, pushed her into a bedroom and raped her on the bed, pinning her arms above her head.
“I said, ‘No, no,’ but there was not much I could do,” she said. “My body shut down. It was so disgusting my body started to shake in a way that was unusual. It was like a seizure or something.”
Weinstein walked out, she said, and she lost consciousness. “I woke up, but I’m not sure if I fainted, blacked out or fell asleep,” she said. She was on the floor with her nightgown pushed up, she said.
Several weeks later, she said, she confronted Weinstein at a restaurant about the incident. “This remains between you and I,” she recalled Weinstein telling her.
“It was very menacing,” she said. “His eyes went black — I thought he was going to hit me right there.”
Sciorra said that she never called police. “He was someone I knew,” Sciorra said. “I felt at the time that rape was something that happened in a back alleyway in a dark place.”
Sciorra said the attack left emotional scars. She started to drink heavily and even began cutting herself. Sometimes, she recalled, she would slice her hands and fingers and paint a white wall in her apartment “blood red.”
In the years after the assault, Sciorra said, Weinstein continued to harass her. On one occasion, she recalled, he showed up unannounced at her hotel room in London, so she changed rooms in the middle of the night.
In 1997, Sciorra told the jury, she went to the Cannes Film Festival to promote her movie “Cop Land.” One morning, at 5 a.m., she said, she opened the door of her hotel room to find Weinstein standing in the hallway in his underwear. He had a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a videotape in the other.
“I couldn’t get past him,” Sciorra said. She said she “pressed all of the call buttons” on the telephone. “People came,” she added, “and he left.”
She said she remained mostly silent about the incidents until October 2017, when she spoke to a journalist — likely a reference to Ronan Farrow, who published an account of the alleged rape in Manhattan in The New Yorker.
“I was afraid for my life,” Sciorra said.
Donna Rotunno, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, attempted to discredit Sciorra’s testimony on cross-examination, pointing out that the actress could not remember the exact date of the alleged assault and several other details about the night.
Rotunno also asked Sciorra why she would open her apartment door without first finding out who might be on the other side.
“So, you hear this knock, you’re in a nightgown and you don’t say, ‘Who is it?’ ” Rotunno asked.
“No,” Sciorra answered. “I opened the door, and he was right there.”
Rotunno asked Sciorra why she did not flee. “He was too big,” the witness answered. The defense lawyer asked why she never called the doorman to inquire why he let Weinstein in without her permission. “I was devastated,” Sciorra said.
Sciorra acknowledged to Rotunno that after the alleged assault, she did not see a doctor or call police. She said she told only two friends what had happened, one of them actress Rosie Perez.
“At the time,” Sciorra said, “I didn’t understand that was rape.”
Rotunno later played the jury a video clip of Sciorra appearing on “Late Show With David Letterman” in 1997. In the clip, Sciorra admitted that she had made up little lies about her life, saying, for instance, that her father had once raised iguanas in the circus.
In a rebuttal minutes later, the lead prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi asked Sciorra if she had ever lied about matters as serious as her allegations against Weinstein. “No,” she replied.
“This is not a tale?” Illuzzi said.
“No,” Sciorra said.
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