At Harvey Weinstein trial, Mimi Haley’s testimony turns into daylong battle over consent
Fearing she had no realistic chance of escape as Harvey Weinstein allegedly backed her into a bedroom in a New York City apartment in 2006, Mimi Haley told jurors Monday that she eventually decided surrender was her best chance at survival.
“I couldn’t even get away from him at all,” Haley said of the moment Weinstein allegedly orally forced himself on her. “Ultimately, after a while, I decided to check out and endure it. That was the safest thing to do at that point.”
Haley, a former production assistant at Weinstein Co. who worked on shows such as “Project Runway,” testified for nearly six hours in a Manhattan courtroom Monday, becoming the second of six women expected to testify against the fallen Hollywood titan at his sexual assault trial.
For two and a half hours, Haley repeatedly burst into tears as she detailed a number of escalating closed-door experiences with Weinstein. She said her fear of Weinstein became so all-encompassing that she had sex with him two weeks after the date she alleges he assaulted her, even though she didn’t want to, not even understanding that could be considered rape.
“Mr. Weinstein has a lot more power and resources and connections ... I didn’t really think I would stand a chance,” she said when asked why she didn’t challenge him or contact the police after two separate incidents in July 2006.
Weinstein is charged with first-degree rape, two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of first-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree rape. The charges stem from Haley’s allegations and another woman’s accusation that the mogul raped her in a New York City hotel in 2013.
Haley first came forward in 2017 at a news conference alongside attorney Gloria Allred, who represents several accusers against Weinstein and has sat in the front row of the courtroom since proceedings began last week. She said Monday that she changed her last name from Haleyi to Haley, in part, because of the intense interest in the Weinstein allegations.
During several hours of cross-examination, defense attorney Damon Cheronis aimed to pick apart Haley’s allegation, highlighting a number of emails and other communications between Weinstein and her that suggested they remained cordial for years after the alleged assault.
Cheronis, who asked questions in rapid-fire sequences and raised his voice to a shout on numerous occasions, also grilled Haley for going public with her accusations against Weinstein in 2017 without disclosing that they had stayed in touch or that she had contacted him for help finding work several times after the alleged assaults.
“The truth is, the reason that you didn’t tell the world the rest of it … is you knew that [the world] would look at you skeptically,” he said.
Haley said she first met Weinstein at the 2004 premiere of the film “The Aviator.” The connection eventually helped her break into the production world, as Weinstein scored her a job on the set of the Miramax show “Project Runway” in 2006.
But Haley said it also made her a target of the mogul’s allegedly relentless lust. Before he helped her land the New York job, Haley alleges Weinstein called her into a meeting at his hotel during the Cannes film festival and asked her for a massage. When she declined, he asked to give her a massage, which she refused as well.
Not wanting anything more than a professional relationship with Weinstein, Haley said, she left.
Weinstein, however, would not relent. Back in New York, he repeatedly asked her to travel to Paris with him for a fashion show, at one point showing up at her apartment uninvited, trying to convince her to take the trip, she said. He refused to leave until Haley made a joke about how Weinstein had “a terrible reputation with women,” which seemed to offend him, she testified.
Concerned she had fractured her most important relationship in the film and television industry, Haley said she agreed to meet with Weinstein again at his SoHo apartment in July 2006.
She remembered the conversation being casual and friendly, until Weinstein lunged forward and attempted to kiss her.
Panicked, Haley said she kept retreating from Weinstein, even mentioning she was menstruating, until she stumbled backward into a bedroom. As Haley recalled the alleged assault, tears began streaming down her face.
“He pushed me down. He held me down by my arms … no, stay, like that … and I said, ‘no, no’ and at that time I started realizing what was actually happening and I thought … this is being raped,” she said Monday.
She said Weinstein had forcible oral sex with her.
Haley recalled a second incident two weeks later at a Tribeca hotel, where she said Weinstein threw her onto a bed and forced himself on her. In shock, Haley said, she laid still the entire time while the mogul called her a “whore” and a “bitch.”
“I didn’t resist. I just laid there,” she said, dabbing at her eyes.
Later on, Haley said she initially told prosecutors she didn’t believe the second incident would be considered rape because she “didn’t physically resist.”
Weinstein has denied all wrongdoing, and his defense team has spent much of the trial, now in its fourth day, reframing each encounter as consensual. His defense team has repeatedly referenced communications between Weinstein and his accusers that took place long after the dates of the alleged assaults.
Cheronis on Monday called attention to Haley’s decision to stay in contact with Weinstein for several years after the July 2006 incidents. The day after one of the attacks Haley described in court, she boarded a plane to Los Angeles with a ticket purchased by Weinstein. Haley said she wanted to visit a friend who was giving birth, and did not go to the movie premiere Weinstein had planned to bring her to as a guest.
In 2008, Cheronis claimed Haley sent him a message to the mogul that seemed almost loving.
In the email, Cheronis said Monday, Haley wrote that it was “great to see” Weinstein and had signed the missive “lots of love.”
Haley’s testimony followed that of Annabella Sciorra, the Brooklyn actress of “Sopranos” fame who has accused Weinstein of assaulting her in her Gramercy Park home in the early 1990s.
Much like Sciorra, Haley said she figured reporting Weinstein would be futile and instead chose to move forward with her life while trying not to let the alleged assault define her existence.
I decided to just almost pretend it didn’t happen and just put it aside and just carry on as usual,” she said. “Put on the brave face.”
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