When prosecutors launched into opening statements in Harvey Weinstein’s rape and sexual-assault trial Wednesday, they focused on his privilege and how it enabled his predatory behavior. “The man sitting right there was not just a titan in Hollywood. He was a rapist, sexually assaulting these women when they refused to comply with his desires, and his orders, and then using his power and prestige” to keep them silent, argued prosecutor Meghan Hast.
Hast then listed the women whose allegations against Weinstein comprise the charges in this trial: Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, and an aspiring actress. (Her name was said in court, but she has not identified herself publicly as an accuser, as Haleyi and Sciorra have.) When Weinstein heard the last woman’s name, he shook his head. “In fact, although strangers to one another, they will each describe to you their fear, their shame, and their humiliation that they each wrestled with” after their violent encounters with Weinstein, Hast said.
These women each felt “small and insignificant — no match for a power broker in Hollywood,” she said, describing Weinstein as the kind of man seen “smiling at cameras on red carpets all over the world, and rubbing elbows with people like the Clintons.” Hast showed jurors a photo of Weinstein on the red carpet, as well as Weinstein posing with Bill Clinton, on a large screen.
It was when Weinstein was rising to prominence, around late 1993, when he set his predatory sights on Sciorra, Hast alleged. “He violently and forcibly raped, and orally sexually assaulted, Annabella Sciorra,” Hast said.
The first alleged assault Hast described was of Sciorra, who met Weinstein at an industry event in Los Angeles. He started to test Sciorra’s boundaries shortly thereafter, demanding that she act in a part immediately after she ended another project, despite her requests for a much-needed break.
“The evidence will show that Annabella had passed the first test; she could be bullied into accepting a part,” Hast said. “Harvey Weinstein refused and threatened to sue her if she backed down. Annabella, feeling trapped and overmatched, did the movie.
“At that point, the defendant made his next move, knowing that Annabella was struggling and vulnerable: He sent her a care package, a few old movies, some popcorn, and a bottle of Valium,” Hast continued.
“Annabella’s world came crashing down” following a dinner event around late 1993. Weinstein offered to drop her off at her apartment. She went inside and got ready for bed.
“There was a knock at her door,” Hast said. “Not expecting anyone, Annabella opened the door a crack to see who it was. Before she had time to ask him why he was there, the defendant pushed past the 110-pound Annabella.”
“He appeared to be casing her apartment, trying to make sure no one else was there,” she continued. “Once he was satisfied, he was unbuttoning his shirt … she told him to get out. She told him no. But Harvey Weinstein was undeterred. The defendant started backing her into her bedroom.”
While Sciorra initially thought she could flee, he ultimately managed to hold her down and rape her. “Annabella remembers at some point giving up the fight and just hoping it would end,” Hast alleged. “Annabella remembers not having any fight [left] in her body.” “Her body wasn’t able to endure anymore and her body began violently shaking.” At that point, Weinstein “had enough” and “left her emotionally and physically destroyed.”
Weinstein left her “passed out on the floor, with her nightgown around her waist,” Hast claimed. As Hast continued to allege, in detail, Weinstein’s predatory attacks on other women, he mostly avoided looking at the jury. Instead, he looked forward, or down at a legal pad, occasionally whispering with his attorneys.
Update, February 24: Harvey Weinstein’s verdict has been announced.