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Harvey Weinstein accuser says he told her, ‘this is how the industry works’

Dawn Dunning, a waitress from Ohio, met the influential producer at an upscale lounge in New York City’s meatpacking district. Tarale Wulff was Weinstein’s waitress at another exclusive lounge in Lower Manhattan.

By: New York Times | New York | January 30, 2020 8:39:39 am
Weinstein accuser says he told her, ‘this is how the industry works’ Harvey Weinstein, center, arrives for a court hearing, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Written by Jan Ransom

The women were young aspiring actresses waiting tables in New York when they met Harvey Weinstein in the early 2000s.

Dawn Dunning, a waitress from Ohio, met the influential producer at an upscale lounge in New York City’s meatpacking district. Tarale Wulff was Weinstein’s waitress at another exclusive lounge in Lower Manhattan.

He offered to help both women with their acting careers, luring them to what they thought were business meetings. But each took the witness stand Wednesday at Weinstein’s rape trial to describe how, once they were alone with Weinstein, he sexually assaulted them instead.

Dunning testified that at one meeting, Weinstein suggested she agree to a threesome with him and one of his assistants to advance her career, telling her, “This is how the industry works.” Wulff said she had agreed to meet with Weinstein to discuss acting when he raped her inside of his Manhattan loft.

Dunning and Wulff were the latest accusers to testify against Weinstein at his trial in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan. Choking back tears, Dunning said her encounters with the producer happened in 2004, and Wulff said Weinstein attacked her the following year.

A total of six women are testifying against Weinstein at the trial, which is widely seen as a defining moment in the #MeToo movement.

Before his steep fall from grace, Weinstein was an powerful producer, known for his aggressive style, who reshaped the independent movie industry with Oscar winners like “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction.”

But since 2017, when The New York Times and The New Yorker published exposés, more than 90 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, touching off a global reckoning over the kind of harassment women have endured for centuries at the hands of powerful men. Prosecutors have brought criminal charges against him in only a handful of instances in Los Angeles and New York City.

Weinstein has not been criminally charged in connection with the allegations from Dunning and Wulff, but Justice James Burke has ruled prosecutors can use their testimony to demonstrate what they said is Weinstein’s history of sexually assaulting women.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to five felony counts, including rape and predatory sexual assault. Those charges stem from allegations that he forcibly performed oral sex on Miriam Haley, an assistant for “Project Runway,” in 2006 and raped another woman, Jessica Mann, in 2013. Haley told the jury Monday that Weinstein had physically held her down and assaulted her in his Manhattan loft.

Last week, actress Annabella Sciorra, best known for her role in “The Sopranos,” told the jury that in the winter months of either 1993 or 1994, Weinstein pushed his way into her own apartment in New York and raped her.

Sciorra’s account is mentioned in the indictment to support a charge of predatory sexual assault, which requires prosecutors to prove that Weinstein committed a serious sex crime against at least two women. The state’s statute of limitations bars her allegation from being charged on its own as a crime.

The trial has asked the jury of seven men and five women to consider complicated questions of consent and power dynamics in professional relationships. Weinstein’s lawyers have argued that all the sexual encounters were not only consensual but also transactional. The women, they have said, agreed to sex in the hope Weinstein might give them work.

Dunning, who is now a costume designer, said that Weinstein struck up a conversation with her at the now defunct PM Lounge where she waited tables, expressing an interest in her as an actress. They met several times to discuss her career, she said. He occasionally made inappropriate remarks.

But then, Weinstein invited Dunning to a boutique hotel in Tribeca to meet people in the film industry. During a conversation in a bedroom, she said, he suddenly slipped his hand up her skirt and touched her genitals.

He quickly apologized, she recalled, and told her “not to make a big deal about it.” She said she never reported the incident to police because she wanted “to pretend it didn’t happen.” Later, she agreed to a second meeting at a Manhattan hotel where they were supposed to talk about movie scripts.

But Weinstein answered the door wearing only a bathrobe and suggested that Dunning agree to a threesome with him and one of his assistants in exchange for roles in three movies including “The Derail.” Dunning said she laughed, thinking it was a joke.

“He got really angry and started screaming at me, ‘You’ll never make it in this business. This is how the industry works. This is how all the great actresses made it,’ ” she said. She added, “He was like a big guy towering over me, and I was really scared.” She fled the hotel.

A day or so later, Dunning received a call from Weinstein’s assistant, but she hung up the phone. She said she never spoke to the producer again.

Wulff, 40, who is now a model, said she met Weinstein at Cipriani’s Upstairs SoHo, a members-only lounge owned by the producer’s friend, Giuseppe Cipriani. After learning that Wulff was an actress, Weinstein said he was interested in helping her and suggested she make an appointment with his office, she testified.

Later that night, Weinstein grabbed her by the arm and led her up upstairs to a secluded area in the lounge, she said.

She testified that she told the producer she had to get back to work. “He said, ‘One sec, one sec,’ and I noticed his shirt started moving — he had on a white shirt — and I realized he was masturbating under his shirt.” She said she threw her towel and rushed past him.

Still, Wulff said she later agreed to meet with Weinstein at his company’s office to discuss a potential role in “Pulse,” a movie that was being produced by Weinstein’s brother, Robert Weinstein, in Los Angeles.

Harvey Weinstein had a driver bring her from the company office to his apartment, Wulff said. When she arrived, Weinstein chatted with her while walking back and forth in a bedroom. Wulff testified that Weinstein then forced her on the bed and lay on top of her.

“That’s when my red flag finally went up,” she said. She recalled telling him, “I can’t,” but he said, “Don’t worry, I had a vasectomy.” Wulff said, “I just froze, clicked off and that’s it.

“He put himself inside of me and he raped me,” she said.

After it was over, Wulff said, she returned with Weinstein in a car to his company’s office, where she was handed a script. She said she did not audition that day and was not offered a role.

She said she did not tell anyone about what had happened, including police. “It’s easiest for me to pretend it didn’t happen and just to go about my day,” Wulff said.

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