By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Mimi Haleyi, one of the woman former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is charged with sexually assaulting, told a jury on Monday he “lunged” at her in his New York City home in 2006, backing her into a bedroom and forcing oral sex on her.
Haleyi, a former production assistant, began crying as she testified in a Manhattan courtroom while Weinstein watched from the defense table.
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Haleyi and Jessica Mann.
One of Weinstein’s lawyers, Damon Cheronis, on cross-examination pressed Haleyi about her continued contact with Weinstein for several years after the alleged assault, showing her messages she sent him signed “lots of love” and “peace and love.”
Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused Weinstein 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 #MeToo movement, in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.
Haleyi, 42, said Weinstein invited her to his SoHo home after she had worked on one of his television productions.
“At some point, fairly soon into meeting him there, he kind of came towards me and lunged at me,” she said. “I got up from the sofa and said, ‘Oh, no, no, no.'”
Haleyi said Weinstein backed her into a bedroom, held her down on the bed and forced himself on her orally.
She testified that she told Weinstein she had a tampon in, but that he pulled it out.
Haleyi said she subsequently accepted an invitation from Weinstein to meet him at a Tribeca hotel.
“I believe I was trying to regain some sort of power or something,” she said.
When she met him, Haleyi said, Weinstein immediately pulled her onto the bed and had sex with her, calling her a “whore” and a “bitch.” She said that she did not fight back, but did not want to have sex with him.
Haleyi said that she blamed herself for that encounter.
Weinstein has not been criminally charged over Haleyi’s second allegation.
On cross-examination, Cheronis asked Haleyi whether she had accepted trips to Los Angeles and London paid for by Weinstein shortly after the alleged attack, and questioned her decision to meet him again in London.
Cheronis presented Haleyi with several messages in which she asked Weinstein about possible jobs or, in one instance, feedback on a television concept.
Haleyi said she stayed in touch with Weinstein because he was powerful in her industry, and she needed work.
“I asked for jobs from many people, including Harvey Weinstein,” she said.
Under follow-up questioning by a prosecutor, Haleyi said she had “buried” memories of the alleged assault during the time she was in contact with Weinstein.
“Because I felt trapped and not really able to do anything about it … I decided to just almost pretend it didn’t happen and just put it aside and carry on as usual,” she said.
Weinstein’s lawyers have said that messages from his accusers would show that their relationships with him were consensual.
Last week actress Annabella Sciorra testified that Weinstein 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 he is a repeat sexual predator – a charge that could put him in prison for life.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Grant McCool and Tom Brown)