Actress Annabella Sciorra is in court for Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial, setting up what could be the first face-to-face testimony from one of the women who has accused him of sexual assault.
“The Sopranos” actress has said Weinstein raped and sexually assaulted her at her Manhattan apartment in the winter of 1993-1994. She first publicly spoke about the attack in an October 2017 New Yorker story that helped unleash a wave of accusations against him.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys gave their opening statements in Weinstein’s trial on Wednesday, and prosecutors said the Hollywood movie tycoon raped and sexually assaulted young women and actresses, including Sciorra, over the course of decades.
“At the end of this trial, the evidence will be clear that the man seated 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 in the entertainment industry to insure their silence,” Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast said.
Weinstein’s attorney Damon Cheronis attacked the credibility of the women’s stories during his opening statements. He picked apart the timelines of their stories, highlighted how they had changed their stories over the years, and said that several women remained close with Weinstein even after their alleged assaults.
Weinstein’s alleged attack of Sciorra is outside of the statute of limitations, and he is not directly charged with assaulting her. Still, he faces two counts of predatory sexual assault, and he can be convicted on those counts if prosecutors prove he committed sex crimes against multiple victims. Sciorra’s testimony is relevant to these two charges.
Sciorra is one of six women expected to testify that Weinstein attacked them. He faces five charges related to the alleged rape of Jessica Mann and forced oral sex of Mimi Haleyi. Three other women also will testify as “prior bad acts” witnesses to show a pattern of Weinstein’s behavior.
What we know about Sciorra
Hast laid out Sciorra’s story in detail during opening statements to preview her expected testimony.
Sciorra is best known for her Emmy-nominated role on “The Sopranos” as Gloria Trillo, Tony Soprano’s mistress. But she first reached wider fame with her early 1990s starring turns in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever” and the psychological thriller “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.”
She met Weinstein at an industry event in the early 1990s, and shortly after, Weinstein bullied her into taking an acting role in a movie he produced, Hast said. She became part of Miramax’s circle and attended events and dinners around New York City, Hast said.
In the winter of 1993-1994, after a dinner at an Irish restaurant in Manhattan, Weinstein offered Sciorra a ride to her Gramercy Park apartment, Hast said. She left him and was getting ready for bed when she heard a knock on the door, Hast said.
Sciorra opened it a crack and Weinstein barged in, backed her into her bedroom, pinned her to her bed and raped her, Hast said.
“She told him to get out. She told him no, but Harvey Weinstein was undeterred,” Hast said. “Annabella remembers at some point giving up the fight and just hoping it would end.”
Weinstein ejaculated on her leg and on her nightgown, and he then performed oral sex on her, Hast said.
“Annabella remembers not having any fight in her as he continued to forcibly sexually assault her, but her body was not able to endure any more and she began violently shaking,” Hast said.
The attack left her shocked and traumatized, Hast said. Afterward, Sciorra grew thin and sad, and lost her carefree personality and began drinking and cutting herself, Hast said.
“Her power as a person had been stripped away the day the defendant violently raped her,” she said.
Sciorra had two other notable interactions with Weinstein afterward.
Less than a year after the alleged rape, Weinstein sought her out in London, where she was filming a movie, Hast said. He badgered her with messages and sent cars for her, and when she failed to respond, he showed up at her hotel room and became angry when she refused to open the door, Hast said. Sciorra was so terrified that she had the producer move her to a different hotel, Hast said.
And in 1997, she went to the Cannes Film Festival in France and learned she was in a hotel room next door to Weinstein, Hast said. One morning, she opened the door and found him standing there in his underwear, with a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a movie tape in the other, Hast said.
She ran to the back of her room and began hitting the call buttons by the bed, and Weinstein left, Hast said.
Sciorra did not tell police about the incident and she does not remember telling anybody about it for years, Hast said.
Defense questions her story
But in his opening statements, Cheronis told jurors that Sciorra’s friend will testify that she described having consensual sex with Weinstein.
He also showed a PowerPoint slide that highlighted a statement the defense says Sciorra made to police: “I didn’t report it because I didn’t think it was rape.”
Further, Cheronis pointed out that Sciorra could not say the exact day or even the year that this occurred. And he also questioned how Weinstein would have been able to reach her apartment door that night without checking in with the doorman.
“They again painted for you this picture of manipulation, of traps, of tricks, and I think when you look at the evidence regarding that, you will see that a different picture will be painted regarding that issue,” Cheronis said.