NEW YORK (AP) — A key accuser in the the New York City rape trial of Harvey Weinstein testified Monday that she stayed in touch with the once-powerful movie mogul after he allegedly raped her to protect her acting career as the defense sought to paint her as opportunistic manipulator.
Asked on cross-examination about warm emails she sent to Weinstein, the 34-year-old woman responded, “I wanted him to believe I wasn’t a threat,” she said. She later added: “I was afraid of his unpredictable anger.”
Defense lawyer Donna Rotunno, a known #MeToo skeptic, also grilled the woman about consensual sex with Weinstein that the accuser claimed only happened after “a long negotiation.” Even then, “I wasn’t happy to do it,” she said.
“You manipulated Mr. Weinstein every single time, isn’t that correct?” Rotunno asked.
She responded: “I felt there was an aspect to the way I felt I needed to protect myself that had an element of manipulation.”
At one point, Rotunno shot back: “You made a choice to have sexual encounters with Harvey Weinstein when you weren’t sexually attracted to him … You liked the parties and you liked the power.”
The defense attorney also grilled the accuser about communications that provided him with her new phone number and encouraging him to get in touch.
One read: “I got a new number. Just wanted you to have it. Hope you are well and call me anytime, always good to hear your voice,” according to court papers.
At times during the cross-examination, the woman struggled to recall certain details and at one point asked for a break, saying, “I’m getting a little foggy.”
The witness returned to the stand after she told jurors last week that Weinstein trapped her in a New York hotel room in March 2013, and angrily ordered her to undress as he loomed over her, and then raped her.
A second attack came eight months later at a Los Angeles hotel, where she worked as a hairdresser, after she told Weinstein that she was dating an actor, she said.
“You owe me one more time!” she said he screamed at her. She said she begged him not to take off her clothes, but he said, “I don’t have time for games,” and ripped off her pants before pushing her legs apart and raping her.
The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of alleged sexual assault victims without their consent, unless they go public. The AP is withholding the name of the 34-year-old woman because it isn’t clear if she wishes to be identified publicly.
The testimony comes at a pivotal moment in the trial of Weinstein, whose downfall energized the #MeToo movement. He is charged in New York with the 2013 rape and also sexually assaulting Mimi Haleyi, a former “Project Runway” production assistant, in 2006. A conviction could put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
Weinstein, 67, has insisted that any sexual encounters were consensual. His lawyers aim to raise doubts about the rape accuser’s credibility by seizing on her complicated history with the former film producer.
The alleged rape victim caused a stir Friday when, asked by a prosecutor to describe Weinstein’s body, she said that when she first saw him naked, she noticed “extreme scarring” and thought he had characteristics of both male and female genitalia.
“When I first saw him, I was filled with compassion, absolute compassion,” she said, adding, “It seemed his anger came from a place of pain.”