Harvey Weinstein viciously raped multiple women decades apart, relying on his status as a Hollywood power broker to make sure they'd never speak up about the abuse, Manhattan prosecutors told a jury in opening arguments in Weinstein's criminal trial on Wednesday.
Dozens of people have accused Weinstein, who is facing life in prison, of sexual harassment and assault. But the disgraced movie mogul is facing charges related to just two women: production assistant Mimi Haleyi and an aspiring actress, who VICE News is not naming because she identifies as a victim of sexual assault.
Each of the women say Weinstein raped them.
“During this trial, you are going to learn that the defendant was a savvy New York City businessman, that he was a famous and powerful Hollywood producer living a lavish lifestyle that most of us will never know and, you’ll come to learn, most of us will not want to know,” Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast told the courtroom, according to the New York Post.
Hast then walked the 12 jurors tasked with determining Weinstein’s fate through a graphic account of the allegations against him. She first spoke about “The Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who is expected to testify and allege that Weinstein burst into her New York apartment in the early 1990s and raped her.
Sciorra’s account was deemed too old to be tried separately, but her account is expected to bolster the prosecution’s claim that Weinstein was a serial sexual predator. Three other witnesses will also testify against Weinstein over the course of the trial, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“She told him to get out. She told him no. But Harvey Weinstein was undeterred,” Hast said, Variety reported. “Annabella remembers at some point giving up the fight and just hoping it would end.”
Weinstein allegedly used his power and prestige to draw young women into his orbit, promising them roles in his productions. Haleyi originally thought her connection with Weinstein would lead to job opportunities; instead, during a meeting in Weinstein’s New York apartment in 2006, Weinstein pushed Haleyi down on a bed and forcibly performed oral sex on her, Hast said.
“Miriam, again, begged him to stop, telling him she had a tampon in,” Hast said. “Harvey Weinstein simply yanked it out and continually forcibly sexually assaulted Miriam Haleyi.”
Weinstein’s influence in the film industry led Haleyi and the aspiring actress to try to stay friendly with the producer after he assaulted them, Hast said, adding that the jury should not see any warm messages with Weinstein as proof of his innocence.
“She tried to have some sort of relationship with the defendant,” Hast said of the actress, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Weinstein sexually assaulted her at a New York hotel in 2013, after apparently injecting his penis with some kind of medication to get an erection, the New York Times reported.
“Over the next few months, years, she continued to see him,” Hast continued. “She felt that there was no way to get out without suffering — her friends, her career, or worse, physical harm. She could do this, she thought. Maybe he really did think she was talented. Maybe I can just grin and bear it.”
After Hast spoke, attorney Damon Cheronis offered in his opening statement in Weinstein’s defense, arguing Weinstein’s relationships with the women were consensual, and dubbing Hast’s version of events “inexplicable.”
"The truth doesn’t change when the articles come out in 2017, and what we are going to do throughout the course of this trial is to show you the truth,” Cheronis said, in an apparent reference to the New York Times and New Yorker exposés that decimated Weinstein’s career, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “'Victim' is a conclusion that is only made after the case. It’s your job to be patient and to wait for after the cross-examinations. We are going to ask real questions in this case.”
Cover: Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Manhattan Criminal Court, on January 22, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)