Former actress Dawn Dunning testified in Harvey Weinstein’s Manhattan rape and sexual-assault trial Wednesday morning that he touched her genitals without consent during a meeting and later offered her movie roles in exchange for a “threesome.”
While Weinstein is not charged with the alleged assault of Dunning, she is the first witness called to testify about prior bad acts. Prosecutors, who plan on calling two more such witnesses, cannot use their testimony to argue that Weinstein has a bad character or a tendency to behave this way, but these witnesses’ testimony can be used to show things such as opportunity and intent.
The disgraced producer faces five counts for alleged nonconsensual sexual encounters with former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and former actress Jessica Mann. The two most serious counts, predatory sexual assault, are bolstered by Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra’s allegation that Weinstein raped her around late 1993. Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sexual activity.
“Do you see Harvey Weinstein in the courtroom here today?” asked prosecutor Meghan Hast shortly after Dunning entered. Dunning peered at the always rumpled-looking Weinstein and nodded. She then stood. “He’s right here,” Dunning said, pointing to Weinstein. “Blue shirt.”
Hast’s questioning initially explored how Dunning and Weinstein first met. In 2004, Dunning was working as a cocktail waitress in the Meatpacking District; Weinstein was at a table near the bar, she said.
“I didn’t know who he was. I was familiar with Harvey Weinstein, but I didn’t know what he looked like and so we started talking, and one of the owners came over and said, ‘That’s Harvey Weinstein, be nice to him,’ basically.”
Dunning said she told him she was an actress, and Weinstein said he could help her. She gave him her number and didn’t think she’d hear back “because he’s Harvey Weinstein.” His assistant did call and a lunch meeting was scheduled. The meeting was professional and they stuck to business, Dunning testified.
“I remember him on the phone a lot, yelling at people,” Dunning recalled.
Dunning said their initial meetings didn’t raise any red flags for her. “I mean, he would make comments about my looks or my body, but it wasn’t anything, it wasn’t anything worse than I had dealt with working at nightclubs or anywhere else,” she said. “I never thought that it was unsafe.”
Around spring of 2004, Weinstein was working on a project near Soho, and conducting business from a hotel room in the area. He asked her to come by, Dunning said, and his assistant led her to Weinstein’s suite; there was a room with his associates bustling around and a bedroom.
“I was talking with Harvey, and he kind of led me into the other room,” Dunning testified. “And I sat next to him on the bed, and I was wearing a skirt that day … and he put his hand up my skirt.”
“There was no, like, red flags or alerts, or anything that would make me expect this to happen,” Dunning said.
Hast pressed Dunning to describe the alleged incident in more detail.
“He put his hand up my skirt.”
“And then what happened?”
“I was, I mean, it was like a few seconds but, I just kind of froze for a minute, and then stood up,” she said. “He … told me not to make a big deal about it.”
“He apologized, said it wouldn’t happen again, and then we walked back out into the other room,” Dunning continued.
“When he put his hand up your skirt, what, if anything, did he do?” Hast asked.
“His hand went under my underwear,” Dunning said, breaking into tears. He was trying to put it in … put it in my. He was trying to put it in my vagina.”
“Did his finger actually go into your vagina?” Hast asked.
“Like, slightly,” said Dunning, who dabbed her nose with a tissue. “Not all the way.”
“I was just trying to like, rationalize it in my head, you know,” Dunning said, as Weinstein, at the defendant’s table, shook his head. “Just, you know, try to give him the benefit of the doubt that it wouldn’t happen again.”
About a month later, Weinstein’s assistant told Dunning that he wanted to meet with her again.
“She asked me to come to a hotel to meet him,” Dunning said. “It was because he was a big smoker at the time, and they had a cigar bar there.”
When Dunning got to the hotel, which was near Park Avenue, the assistant was waiting downstairs. Weinstein was in a suite, handling business, the assistant said.
“She said let’s just go up to his room, instead of waiting for him,” Dunning said. Weinstein shook his head in the courtroom again.
When they arrived at the room, “he opened the door, and he was wearing an open, white hotel bathrobe.”
“Did he have on any clothes underneath the robe?” Hast asked.
“No. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see any clothes,” she replied.
“There was just a different tone,” Dunning said of Weinstein’s demeanor. “I was kind of like, ‘Hey, you know, how’s it going?’ He was not really that talkative at first.”
There were three stacks of paper on the coffee table, Dunning said. “So he kind of just cut to the chase and said: ‘Here’s contracts for my next three films. I’ll sign them today if you have a threesome with me and my assistant.’”
“I mean, when he said that, I kind of laughed, I thought he was kidding, and he had kind of a crass sense of humor. But when I started laughing, he got really angry and started screaming at me,” Dunning said through tears. “He said, ‘You’ll never make it in this business; this is how this industry works; this is how’ — and he named three actresses — ‘got to where they are.’”
Hast asked whether she remembered the actresses Weinstein named.
“It was Charlize Theron, Salma Hayek, and I believe Uma Thurman. I remember the first two for sure,” Dunning said. “And at that point, I was scared and I didn’t know what he was going to do. So, like, I just like ran, turned and ran for the door, and literally ran down the hall to the elevator.”
“It was close enough that he could have grabbed me,” she continued. “He was screaming, and he was a big guy. He was like, towering over me, and I was really scared.”
When Weinstein left court today, a reporter asked him for comment on Dunning’s allegations that he had mentioned Charlize Theron and Salma Hayek.
“That’s complete bullshit,” Weinstein responded.