Both sides delivered their opening statements on Wednesday in rape trial of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. More than 80 women said the defendant committed sexual misconduct against them, but the cases of only two of them are being adjudicated in a Manhattan court. The trial is set to go into March.
Here’s how the state and defense went about presenting their cases on Wednesday.
1. Weinstein Allegedly Assaulted a Production Assistant in 2006.
As previously known, the mogul allegedly sexually assaulted former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006.
She was introduced to him at a film premiere in London, prosecutor Meghan Hast said Wednesday. Haleyi ran into him at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, said the state. At the time, she was having professional difficulties because her mentor, the film producer Michael White, had become ill and lost his business, so she discussed business opportunities with Weinstein, the state said.
The defendant, however, allegedly began focusing on her appearance, and commented on her legs. He asked for a massage, Hast said. Haleyi tried to sidestep the subject, offering to call the front desk for a massage, but Weinstein said that wasn’t what he had in mind, the prosecution said. He allegedly offered to give her a message, but she eventually left, humiliated.
A Weinstein Co. employee reached out for her to work on Project Runway, and Haleyi agreed, with the understanding that the defendant might’ve dropped his sexual interest. After the shoot was done, she thanked him for the opportunity, and he got her to meet up at the Mercer Hotel lobby. That went well in Haleyi’s point of view, but it was really just a “test” by Weinstein, the prosecution asserted.
He later tried to invite her go to Paris with him, the state said. She said she would think about it, but she never intended to, the state said. Meanwhile, he was asking her where she lived, at which apartment, and if he could go in, the state said.
According to the prosecution, Haleyi declined the Paris invitation. Weinstein allegedly refused to take no for an answer, even going to her apartment. Haleyi stood her ground, and confronted him about his terrible reputation, the state said. Weinstein allegedly got mad, said she offended him, and that she ruined any chance at a professional relationship.
Nonetheless, he continued to keep in contact with her, and invited her to a premiere for Clerks 2, the state said. She agreed, and upon his request, went to his New York apartment, the state said. Haleyi only went in order to keep things professional, Hast said. She believed that he had accepted she had no interest in him, the prosecution said. But, judging by the state’s version of events, she was wrong. It was there that the 300-pound Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on the 115-pound Haleyi on July 10, 2006, according to the prosecution.
What Hast said is not evidence, defense lawyer Damon Cheronis told jurors. He asserted that the state knows their story is problematic. He emphasized timelines showing that both Haleyi and the other alleged victim Jessica Mann maintained warm relationships with Weinstein after the alleged attacks.
He asserted there were false statements in the state’s account. For example, Weinstein didn’t fly Haleyi out to California for the Clerks 2 premiere, but because her friend was pregnant and she asked to be flown out, he said.
Cheronis also tried to cast doubt on the sexual assault story, asking how could this be the same Weinstein that Haleyi once stopped using just her words.
He said there was nothing nonconsensual about the relationships.
The alleged victim allegedly kept in touch with the defendant. For example, she pitched a TV show to him in February 2007, the defense said.
The last time she reached out to him was in 2009, Cheronis said: She was asking for help, and hoped he was well. He said that she only stepped forward in 2017, and initally wanted to remain anonymous. She had a press conference with her attorney Gloria Allred, and mentioned the alleged assault, but didn’t reveal that she kept in touch with Weinstein and pitched to him, the defense said.
The alleged victim also gave over a 2006 calendar, but before she did, she crossed out her meetings with Weinstein.
2. Weinstein Allegedly Raped Actress Jessica Mann in 2013.
Mann (who was previously unnamed in reports) met Weinstein at an industry party in early February 2013, the state said. The prosecution described her as a starving actress.
Weinstein got her number as she was leaving, Hast said. Mann wasn’t thinking about anything sexual, the state said. Weinstein was old enough to be her dad, was overweight, and was sloppy-looking, according to this account. In any case, he allegedly got in touch with her, and and had her meet with his assistant. Mann thought she was lucky to have someone like him interested in her career, the state said.
She engaged with Weinstein Co. invitations, emails, parties, and networking, the state said. Things started turning more sinister, according to the account. Weinstein allegedly got her and her friend to visiting a room, and he isolated Mann. He grabbed her by the arm, and shut the door, the state said. Mann, at 105 pounds, tried to get away, but Weinstein forcibly put his mouth on her vagina, Hast said. She faked an orgasm hoping this would stop him, and when he finally did, he acted like she wanted him to do this, according to the prosecution. Mann said it was great, and that she had to go. She fled, the state said.
The friend encouraged Mann–who the prosecution described as lacking real world experience, and having no real friends or family–to have a relationship with Weinstein, the state said. Mann did so, and had more sexual encounters with him, Hast said. She had a grin and bear it attitude about this, believing this might help her career, but she felt like she was dying inside, according to the prosecution.
This allegedly escalated to the March 18 rape, however. They set up a breakfast meeting in New York City, but Weinstein called her an hour before schedule to say that he was downstairs. He was checking into a hotel room even though he lived in the city, and she questioned him on why, according to the prosecution. She panicked, he got angry, and he grabbed her by the arm, the state said. He allegedly warned her not to embarrass him in the hotel, and to finish the conversation in private.
They went up stairs, and it was there that Weinstein raped Mann, the state said.
Cheronis asserted that Mann continued to maintain contact with Weinstein after the alleged assault. This was a consensual relationship, according to his account. He said she wrote notes in her phone–essentially her diary. Mann described the threesome offer as exciting and fun, but she wasn’t that into it, the lawyer said. Mann didn’t say she was uncomfortable, according to the defense.
She also allegedly reached out to Weinstein in November 2014 after breaking up with her boyfriend, and continued to attend a party as his guest. Mann once introduced a friend of a friend to him, the defense said. She even went as far as to accept his invitation in Summer 2014 to bring her mother to meet him, the defense said.
Contact continued into 2017. On February 28 of that year, Mann allegedly wrote Weinstein that she loved him, but hated feeling like a booty call.
This is not how one talks to a violent predator, Cheronis said.
It was only after October 2017–the month the Weinstein allegations spread in the press–that these relationships were relabeled, the attorney said. It was no longer good to be with Weinstein, he said.
Cheronis also said that Mann was the woman involved in an alleged botch by an NYPD detective. The investigator asked for her phone for the case, but said she could delete whatever she wanted to beforehand, according to this account.
3. Four Women Will Claim Weinstein Raped or Assaulted Them.
The state asserts that Weinstein had a clear pattern of assaulting women. To show this, four alleged victims will testify. Hast started her opening statement discussing the case of actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s. The defendant allegedly went to Sciorra’s apartment uninvited, knocked on her door, and barged in when she opened. He raped her, Hast said.
Cheronis said that her story couldn’t be vetted because she didn’t give a specific date. There was a four- to six-month window, so they can’t go and interview people regarding Weinstein’s whereabouts, or speak to neighbors, he said.
He said that a friend of Sciorra’s will testify that she admitted to doing a crazy thing: consensual sex with Weinstein. She didn’t describe it as rape, he said. Cheronis also asserted that jurors will hear that no one at Sciorra’s Gramercy building was allowed to just walk up to the 17th floor without checking in, or being called out.
The attorney also cast skepticism on Sciorra purporting to not know her film Cop Land was a Miramax film.
The three other alleged victims will testify that Weinstein lured them with promises of help.
First, Hast brought up aspiring actress Dawn Dunning, who believed that Weinstein was expressing interest in her as a friend and mentor. In one incident, however, he allegedly touched her vagina without permission. In another, he allegedly approached her while he was naked except for a bathrobe. Weinstein allegedly said she could have three parts if she agreed to have a threesome with him and his assistant. She tried to laugh if off, then got angry, and fled.
Cheronis said that Dunning spoke on TV before talking to law enforcement, and told an inconsistent story.
Second, Hast discussed aspiring actress Tara Wolfe. According to the prosecution, Weinstein dragged her to a vacant, dark hallway, blocked her escape route, and masturbated in front of her. In another incident, he raped her at the same apartment that Haleyi was sexually assaulted, the state said.
Finally, the prosecutor discussed Lauren Young. Weinstein allegedly met up with her to discuss her script idea for a dark comedy. Young had been invited by a woman identified as Claudia, Hast said. Weinstein lured Young to a hotel room, and Claudia shut the door, according to the account. Weinstein masturbated in front of Young, and grabbed her breasts, the state said. Young ended up escaping the bathroom, shot Claudia a dirty look, and ran out, the prosecution said.
Cheronis also asserted Young changed her story over time.
4. Prosecution Alleges Pattern of Grooming Behavior.
Weinstein allegedly lured many of his victims with promises of professional help, and used tactics to “test” them. For example, he invited Haleyi to the Mercer hotel lobby to see how alone she was, the state said.
The prosecution said that Mann was unwittingly auditioning not to be an actress, but a victim. More than once, Hast emphasized that the alleged victim was inexperienced or wasn’t confident. Mann often wrote Weinstein, and Hast acknowledged that some messages seemed loving, like a child seeking acknowledgment from dad. The prosecutor emphasized to jurors that Mann wasn’t asking for pity, but patience to listen to her story.
He wasn’t her dad. And he wasn’t going to help these women in good faith, according to the account. Hast compared Weinstein to the witch from Hansel and Gretel: “the old lady in the gingerbread house luring kids in.”
The defendant allegedly benefited from his close relationships with his victims. He would keep them close to make sure they didn’t report the assault, the state said. In Sciorra’s case, she wasn’t sure if this was rape, and believed such actions were a back-ally thing, the state said. Many of the women were described as trying to move on with their lives.
Hast said that Dr. Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychologist, will testify on sexual assault and victim behavior during and after the incidents. In her experience, almost all victims are assaulted by people they know, they don’t always resist, they don’t immediately report the incidents, and they reach back out to their attacker, the state said.
Cheronis said that Ziv, however, hadn’t spoken to anyone in the case, and didn’t receive any report in this case.
The defense dismissed the allegation their client was a predator. The only test that mattered was credibility, Cheronis said. The prosecution’s story wasn’t true, he told jurors.
Cheronis said that they were dealing with human beings, and complicated motives in this case.
He said that Haleyi’s and Mann’s testimony will be emotional, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Cheronis said jurors all came into the trial with some notion of Harvey Weinstein, and he asked them to be disabused of what they think happened. Look at the evidence, he said.
During the state’s opening, the defense objected to any references that a number of the victims had a tough childhood. The judge overruled them.
Jesse Weber contributed to this report.
[Image via Jeenah Moon/Getty Images]