Weinstein Witness Jessica Mann Is Grilled on Contact After Alleged Rape
(Bloomberg) -- Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer on Monday hammered away at the credibility of Jessica Mann, whom Weinstein is charged with raping, asking why she continued seeing him even after the alleged assault.
Mann, 34, broke down in sobs on the witness stand after defense attorney Donna Rotunno asked her to read out loud for the jury a letter she wrote to a boyfriend in May 2014 about her relationship with Weinstein, which referred to having been sexually abused when she was younger.
“I remember the day I realized that I was controlling my world because I was sexually assaulted,” Mann read to the panel of seven men and five women. Of Weinstein, she’d written to her boyfriend, “I tried to make him into my pseudo-father.”
“This sexual assault was from when you were younger?” Rotunno asked her.
Mann twice dissolved in tears after Rotunno asked her about the earlier abuse. New York State Supreme Court Justice James Burke initially had Mann escorted out so she could compose herself, but on her return, with the jury out of the room, she continued to weep and gasped for breath. Burke suspended the trial early for the day and ordered prosecutors to have another witness ready to take the stand Tuesday in case Mann isn’t.
On Friday, Mann testified that she was raised evangelical on a farm in Washington state. She acknowledged agreeing to an “extremely degrading” sexual relationship with the Hollywood power broker after he befriended her and then performed a sex act on her at a Los Angeles hotel shortly before the alleged rape, which prosecutors say took place in a Manhattan hotel room in March 2013.
On Monday, Rotunno grilled Mann on her relationship with Weinstein, which continued for years after the alleged rape, and about financial help he gave her and affectionate emails she sent him. Asked why she agreed to go up to his hotel room on the day of the assault, Mann said she was trying to placate him.
Rotunno showed Mann emails she sent Weinstein from early 2013 to right after the alleged attack and then through at least 2016.
“As ‘manipulated’ as you claim you felt, isn’t it true that you manipulated Mr. Weinstein because you continued to see him after every single sexual encounter?” Rotunno asked.
“How I handled it to survive and process it, yeah, I guess you could say it was manipulation,” Mann said after a long pause.
The Manhattan district attorney has charged Weinstein with rape and predatory sexual assault for attacks on Mann and Miriam Haley, a former production assistant on his “Project Runway” television show. Weinstein maintains that the sexual encounters were consensual and that Mann and other accusers got involved with him to advance their careers.
Prosecutors are starting to wind down their case. Mann, the fifth accuser to take the stand, testified on Friday that Weinstein took her under his wing, only to groom her for assault. She said he raped her again in late 2013 at a Beverly Hills hotel after she told him she was dating an actor and he exploded in rage, shouting “You owe me one more time!”
The prosecution earlier called actor Annabella Sciorra -- who testified that Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s after forcing his way into her Manhattan apartment -- to support the charges involving Mann and Haley. It won permission to call several other women to support the argument that Weinstein is a serial sexual predator, a charge that could send the 67-year-old producer to prison for the rest of his life if he’s convicted.
Mann had testified that she faked an orgasm to end the encounter at the Los Angeles hotel, later telling Weinstein it was “the best sex I ever had.”
“You lied to Mr. Weinstein every single time, isn’t that true?” Rotunno asked her on Monday.
“In what way?” Mann responded.
“You made him believe that you wanted to be there, correct?” Rotunno said.
“For my safety,” Mann replied.
The case is People v. Weinstein, 450293/2018, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).
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