After nearly five hours on the stand in a Manhattan courtroom Monday, one of the women who has accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault folded over in tears as defense attorneys confronted her with a slew of emails that detailed a cordial relationship between the former aspiring actress and her alleged rapist.
Donna Rotunno, Weinstein’s lead attorney, spent hours questioning the woman’s interactions with the mogul despite her graphic descriptions of two violent assaults: one in a Manhattan hotel in 2013 that resulted in criminal charges in New York, and another in Beverly Hills in early 2014 where the woman says Weinstein forced himself on her after she told him she had a boyfriend.
Rotunno repeatedly said the woman was “manipulating” Weinstein, and asked pointed questions about her behavior in the immediate aftermath of the alleged assaults. In early 2014, Rotunno noted, the woman sent an email to Weinstein complimenting his “smile and beautiful eyes” just days after he allegedly assaulted her at the Peninsula in Beverly Hills.
Similarly, in 2013, the woman joined Weinstein for a screening of the film “August: Osage County” the day after one of the alleged rapes occurred in a Manhattan hotel, Rotunno said. Five months later, the woman referenced the film in a polite email exchange with Weinstein.
“The movie you choose to put in there five months later is the movie he forced you to go and see. It’s the movie you went to see the day after you claim you were assaulted?” Rotunno asked.
The testimony became all too much late Monday afternoon, when Rotunno made the woman read an email she sent to her boyfriend in 2014 disclosing some details about her dynamic with Weinstein. After reading about three pages, she began sobbing heavily and the court went into recess. When she was called back to the stand, she doubled over and wept loudly again, causing both Manhattan Assistant Dist. Atty. Joan Illuzi-Osborn and Rotunno to approach with concerned looks on their faces.
During nearly six hours of emotional testimony Friday, the woman recounted her allegedly abusive relationship with Weinstein, one she said was by turns compassionate and brutal. The Times does not identify women who make sexual assault allegations unless they choose to go public with them outside of court.
Though she alleged Weinstein raped her in Los Angeles and New York — including the alleged 2013 Manhattan attack that prompted some of the charges for which he now stands trial — she also said they had several consensual sexual encounters.
Weinstein, 67, is charged in New York 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 the accusations of Mimi Haley, a former employee of Weinstein’s production company; and the woman who testified Friday.
Weinstein has denied all wrongdoing. His attorneys have argued that each alleged assault was consensual sex.
On Monday, Rotunno hammered at the woman’s claim that she kept engaging with Weinstein, in part because she was afraid he would harm her or endanger her career.
The Chicago attorney noted that the woman often initiated their email interactions, even on dates after the alleged rapes. She also questioned how Weinstein could harm her career when the most significant audition she had ever been offered was arranged by Weinstein in the first place.
“I had this dynamic with Harvey where I just felt like I had to obey and jump,” the woman said Monday. “The abuse occurred when he would be unpredictable and he was doing something unpredictable.”
Rotunno also confronted the woman with an email in which she offered to introduce the mogul to her mother and noted that the woman kept contacting Weinstein to provide her contact information whenever she got a new phone. The woman countered again that she wanted to appear deferential and nonthreatening in order to avoid Weinstein’s wrath.
“It was always in my best interest to feel the temperature gauges between us,” she said. “I wanted him to believe I wasn’t a threat.”
Cross-examination is expected to resume Tuesday.
Times staff writer Luke Money contributed to this report from Los Angeles.