January 31, 2020 / 11:01 AM / 19 days ago

Weinstein accuser expected to testify about alleged rape, relationship with producer

NEW YORK, Jan 31 (Reuters) - A onetime aspiring actress who prosecutors say maintained a relationship with Harvey Weinstein after he raped her because she felt “trapped” is expected to testify against the former Hollywood producer at his Manhattan criminal trial on Friday.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to raping the aspiring actress, Jessica Mann, and to sexually assaulting another woman, Mimi Haleyi. Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

Weinstein, who produced films including “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 milestone in the #MeToo movement in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.

Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast told jurors in her opening statement last week that in 2013, Weinstein invited Mann, then 25 and an aspiring actress, to read a script in a hotel room, where he pushed her onto a bed and forcibly performed oral sex on her.

Mann, Hast said, then made “a decision that had disastrous consequences for her” and decided to have a relationship with Weinstein. Hast said Mann avoided having sexual intercourse with him for about a month, when Weinstein raped her.

Hast told jurors that Mann went on to maintain some form of a relationship with Weinstein even after that, though she felt “trapped.”

Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, said in his opening statement that communications between Mann and Weinstein would show that their relationship was entirely consensual.

Jurors in the trial have already heard from Haleyi, who said Weinstein forced oral sex on her in his home in 2006, as well as from actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein violently raped her in her apartment in 1993 or 1994.

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.

Two women who are not part of the criminal charges, Dawn Dunning and Tarale Wulff, have also testified that Weinstein sexually assaulted them. Prosecutors are offering their testimony as evidence of Weinstein’s methods and motives.

A third such witness, Lauren Young, is expected to testify later in the trial. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York Editing by Noeleen Walder and Leslie Adler)

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