Accuser takes stand in Harvey Weinstein's rape trial

NEW YORK (Reuters) – One of the women who Harvey Weinstein is charged with sexually assaulting took the witness stand on Monday in what is expected to be some of the most dramatic testimony in the former Hollywood producer’s rape trial.

FILE PHOTO: Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Mimi Haleyi began testifying in a Manhattan courtroom with Weinstein looking on from the defense table.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Haleyi and Jessica Mann.

Last week actress Annabella Sciorra testified that the former Hollywood mogul violently raped her in her Manhattan apartment in the early 1990s.

While Sciorra’s allegation is too old to support a separate rape charge against Weinstein, prosecutors hope it will show that he is a repeat sexual predator – a charge that could put him in prison for life.

Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

The accusations fueled the #MeToo movement, in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.

Weinstein, who reshaped the independent film industry with critically acclaimed pictures such as “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has denied the allegations and said any sexual encounters were consensual.

The trial is widely seen as a watershed moment for the movement.

Prosecutors in opening statements last week portrayed Weinstein as a serial predator whose victims experienced shame and humiliation following encounters with him.

Weinstein’s lawyers have said that messages from his accusers would show they maintained warm relations with him after the alleged attacks.. The defense maintains the women reframed consensual encounters as nonconsensual after the fact.

Sciorra, who appeared in “The Sopranos,” testified on Thursday that Weinstein gave her a ride home with his driver after a dinner one winter night in 1993 or 1994. She said that after dropping her off, he knocked on her door unannounced, forced his way in and raped her.

Actress Rosie Perez, a longtime friend of Sciorra, testified on Friday that Sciorra told her about the rape soon after it happened. She said she urged Sciorra to go to the police, but Sciorra refused, saying, “He’d destroy me.”

(This story refiles to fix spelling of accuser’s name to “Haleyi” instead of “Haley” in 2nd paragraph)

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Jonathan Oatis

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