Actress Rosie Perez told a New York courtroom Friday that Annabella Sciorra told her she’d been sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein in 1994, bolstering the oldest claim against the Hollywood mogul at his rape trial.
The testimony was a boon for Manhattan prosecutors just one day after Weinstein’s defense team spent hours grilling Sciorra over her supposed decades-long silence about the alleged assault.
“She told me that it was in fact Harvey Weinstein that raped her,” Perez said of a 1994 phone call she had with Sciorra. “She told me that when he showed up at her door that she was confused. That he pushed his way into the door and that she was crying and saying ‘I tried to fight back. I tried. I tried.’”
During her testimony on Thursday, Sciorra said Weinstein violently raped her in her New York apartment in either late 1993 or early 1994. During a lengthy cross-examination, Weinstein’s defense team repeatedly attacked Sciorra for her inability to name an exact date, and implied that Sciorra lied about the rape.
Weinstein, 67, faces five felony counts, including rape and predatory sexual assault. The charges stem from the alleged 2006 rape of Mimi Haleyi, a former employee of Weinstein’s production company, and an alleged 2013 assault against another woman. Weinstein faces life in prison if convicted on all counts.
Sciorra’s allegations date back too far to be prosecuted on their own, but could be a factor as prosecutors look to show that Weinstein has engaged in a pattern of predatory behavior.
Perez, known for her roles in “Do the Right Thing” and “White Men Can’t Jump,” said Sciorra told her twice about the assault: first in the winter of 1993, when Perez said she called Sciorra to invite her out to a nightclub in New York.
“I think something bad happened. I think I was raped,” Sciorra said in a whisper, according to Perez. Sciorra allegedly cried into the phone.
At the time, Sciorra would not tell her who her attacker was, Perez said. The actress said she urged Sciorra to call the police, but Sciorra refused and hung up.
Months later, when Sciorra was shooting a movie in London in 1994, Perez said she heard a rumor about Weinstein harassing Sciorra overseas. Perez called Sciorra and asked if Weinstein was the man who attacked her in her apartment. Sciorra “confirmed it,” according to Perez.
“She swore me never to tell anybody. And I told her that you should go to the police,” Perez said. “And she said ‘I can’t. He’d destroy me.’”
Weinstein’s defense attorney, Damon Cheronis, repeatedly grilled Perez about how she reacted to Sciorra’s initial claim of rape, asking why Perez didn’t go the police or go over to Sciorra’s apartment to check on her.
“I was in a panic. I didn’t know what to do. I was scared ... I was in shock,” Perez said. She recalled calling Sciorra repeatedly, crying and begging her to pick up the phone.
Cheronis also kept bringing up similarities in Perez’s account to testimony Sciorra delivered on Thursday, seemingly implying she may have picked up details from news accounts of the trial, though Perez denied that.
Sciorra, best known for her role as Gloria Trillo in “The Sopranos,” was the first woman to testify against Weinstein. Six women total are expected to testify against him over the course of the trial, which could last through early March.
“I was trying to get him off of me. I was punching him. I was kicking him. I was just trying to get him away from me and he took my hands and he put them over my head,” Sciorra, 59, told the court on Thursday. “He got on top of me and he raped me.”
Sciorra said she did not report the alleged rape to authorities because she felt confused about what had happened. Under cross-examination from Weinstein’s lead defense attorney, Donna Rotunno, Sciorra told the court, “At the time, I didn’t understand that that was rape.”
Sciorra told jurors that the alleged attack left her emotionally brutalized and that she began drinking heavily and cutting herself afterward.