Weinstein defense suggests rape accuser slept with producer to advance her career

by Reuters
Monday, 3 February 2020 19:35 GMT

(Adds further testimony from cross examination)

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK, Feb 3 (Reuters) - A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein confronted his accuser in court on Monday with friendly emails she sent to the Hollywood producer after an alleged rape, suggesting the woman had a consensual sexual relationship to advance her acting career.

Jessica Mann, 34, was pressed to explain why she met Weinstein the day after the alleged attack and whether she was manipulating the once-powerful movie mogul, whose rape trial in New York entered its third week of testimony.

On Friday, Mann testified that Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel room in March 2013, early in what she described as an "extremely degrading" relationship with him. She said the relationship continued in some form for years after that.

The 67-year-old former producer has pleaded not guilty to raping Mann and to sexually assaulting another woman, Mimi Haleyi. He faces life in prison if found guilty of predatory sexual assault, the most serious charge.

Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

"You told us that you were willing to sleep with Harvey Weinstein because you didn't want him to ruin your acting career, is that correct?" asked Weinstein's lawyer, Donna Rotunno.

"I did not want him to hurt my acting career," Mann replied.

Rotunno answered, "You didn't have a career to hurt."

"I was building one," Mann responded.

Rotunno asked whether Mann "manipulated" Weinstein when she sent him friendly messages and asked to see him, even though she was not attracted to him.

"How I handled it to survive and process it, yeah, I guess you could say manipulation," Mann answered.

Rotunno also questioned Mann about the day of the alleged rape, quoting testimony she gave on Friday in which she said her "worst nightmare" would be for her friend and agent to see her coming out of a hotel room with Weinstein.

"Your worst nightmare, Jessica, in your words, was not the fact that you had just been taken against your will in a hotel," Rotunno said. "Your words."

"Abuse is embarrassing, so yeah," Mann said.

Mann also said under Rotunno's questioning that she had willingly met Weinstein the day after the alleged rape.

Rotunno went on to show Mann an email she sent Weinstein several months later in which she gave him her new contact information and said she would be "happy to see your smile."

Mann said she had often sent Weinstein emails meant to keep him from getting angry.

"I wanted him to know that we were OK and I wasn't a threat," she said.

Weinstein, who produced films including "The English Patient" and "Shakespeare in Love," has denied any non-consensual sex.

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. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson; writing by Tom Hals; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Rosalba O'Brien)

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