Actress Annabella Sciorra confronts Weinstein from the witness stand
Annabella Sciorra was so new to the Hollywood scene in the early 1990s that she said she didn’t even know who Harvey Weinstein was when she first met the future Hollywood titan.
As they became acquainted over the next several years, Sciorra says the famed film mogul sent her a few strange gifts: a package that contained movies, licorice, popcorn and a bottle of Valium. Then, later, a box of chocolate penises, she told jurors from the witness stand in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday.
But what began as merely inappropriate turned violent on a winter night in late 1993 or early 1994, she alleges, when Weinstein pushed his way inside her Gramercy Park apartment and raped her.
“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, said, nearly crying. “He got on top of me and he raped me.”
Sciorra’s two hours of wrenching testimony marked the first time one of Weinstein’s accusers stared him down in a criminal court. 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 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 is the first of six accusers who are expected to testify that Weinstein attacked them. Her allegations date back too far to be prosecuted on their own, but her testimony during a trial that’s expected to be a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement could be a factor as prosecutors look to show that Weinstein has engaged in a pattern of predatory behavior.
Sciorra, wearing a long blue dress, took the witness stand shortly before 10 a.m. After standing and pointing toward Weinstein to identify him, she began telling jurors what happened the night of the alleged attack.
She had accepted a ride home from the movie mogul after a somewhat uneventful dinner at what she described as an Irish restaurant in Manhattan, not long after she starred in the Miramax-produced film “The Night We Never Met.” When she arrived home, Sciorra went upstairs to get ready for bed and put on a white cotton nightgown that was a family gift.
A few minutes later, she heard a knock at the door and opened it to find Weinstein standing outside. She told jurors he pushed his way inside the apartment and began unbuttoning his shirt.
“I then realized that he thought we were going to be having sex,” she said. “I realized, like, if he was taking off his shirt that he wanted to have sex.”
She says she asked him to leave and stepped away from him. Before she could run, she said he grabbed the front of her nightgown, held her wrists above her head and raped her, ejaculating on her leg.
He then performed oral sex on her, telling her, “This is for you,” Sciorra recounted.
“It was just so disgusting that my body started to shake in a way that was very unusual,” she said. “I didn’t really even know what was happening. It was like a seizure or something.”
Sciorra said she never called police and said she was confused at the time. She said she thought “rape was something that happened in a back alleyway or a dark place,” committed by “someone you didn’t know with a gun to your head.”
Later, 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,” when asked why she hadn’t reported the Miramax co-founder in the 1990s.
The attack left her emotionally brutalized and she began drinking heavily and cutting herself, Sciorra told jurors. A few weeks after the alleged assault, Sciorra saw Weinstein at a restaurant and tried to talk to him about the incident, telling him she had blacked out.
“That’s what all the nice Catholic girls say,” she recalled him allegedly telling her in a manner she described as menacing. She perceived the interaction as a threat to stay quiet.
The alleged attack touched off a series of incidents, Sciorra testified, including one during the Cannes Film Festival in 1997. Weinstein allegedly showed up at her hotel room door in his underwear while holding a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a videotape in the other. Terrified, she started hitting buttons on the room’s telephone and Weinstein left, she said.
Sciorra also described Weinstein as obsessively trying to arrange a meeting with her while she was filming a movie in London in 1994, saying the harassment got so bad that she changed hotels to hide her location after he showed up and banged on her hotel door.
Rotunno repeatedly returned to the fact that Sciorra could not provide an exact date or time of the assault and picked at more intimate details of her account.
The Chicago litigator, who has earned a reputation for defending men from sexual misconduct allegations, rapidly questioned Sciorra about the exact amount of time the assault lasted, or why she didn’t check who was at the door through a peephole. She also pressured her about her decision to not contact law enforcement in London.
“We’re very unsure about dates and times,” Rotunno cracked early in her cross-examination, drawing the first of many frustrated objections from Manhattan Assistant Dist. Atty. Joan Illuzzi-Osborn.
Rotunno spent most of the afternoon trying to challenge the idea that Sciorra felt intimidated by Weinstein, highlighting an exchange of messages she had with a colleague in 2017. The colleague asked for Sciorra’s cellphone number and then told her he was trying to obtain it on Weinstein’s behalf.
Sciorra responded, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and later asked whether Weinstein had any work for her, leaving Rotunno to ask why she reacted that way to hearing that the man who allegedly assaulted her wanted to get in touch. Sciorra said she was petrified of Weinstein and was fishing for information.
Rotunno finished her cross-examination by playing a two-decade-old clip of Sciorra appearing on the David Letterman show to promote the film “Cop Land.” In the interview, Sciorra joked around about her habit of lying about family anecdotes in interviews in the press.
“I was caught in the last few years lying about a few things.… I would make up quite elaborate stories,” Sciorra said in the brief footage shown as a clear implication she was not a credible witness.
Illuzzi-Osborn quickly pointed out that the appearance was wildly out of context and taken from a comedy appearance.
Judge James Burke will soon have to decide whether to allow actress Rosie Perez to testify that Sciorra had told her about the alleged rape in 1994, though she did not mention Weinstein by name.
Queally reported from New York and Fry reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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