Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer Played Up Old Myths About Rape While Questioning The Case’s Star Witness, Annabella Sciorra
The Sopranos actor testified that Weinstein forced his way into her NYC apartment and raped her. His lawyers asked, “Why didn’t you try to run out of the apartment?” “Did you scream?” “Did you hit him?”
When actor Annabella Sciorra, the star witness in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial, was on the stand Thursday morning, the disgraced Hollywood mogul’s lawyers in their questions perpetuated myths regarding sexual assault victims — a day after they assured the court they would not victim-shame witnesses.
Sciorra, the first woman to testify against Weinstein, told the jury of seven men and five women that the former producer forced his way into her New York City apartment following a group dinner and raped her. She told the jury that she blacked out and fainted after the alleged attack.
Defense attorney Donna Rotunno then cross-examined Sciorra, testing her memory, character, life choices, and endurance. The questioning lasted more than two hours.
Though another one of Weinstein’s lawyers, Damon Cheronis, assured jurors during opening statements on Wednesday that the defense would not shame any of the victims — only “question them thoroughly” — Rotunno’s line of inquiry on Thursday played up old myths about rape, as she asked Sciorra a series of questions about her behavior following the alleged assault.
“Did you report to the police? Call 911?”
“Why didn’t you try to run out of the apartment?”
“Did you scream?”
“Did you hit him?”
“Did you scratch him?”
“Try to poke him in the eyes?”
“Why didn’t you tell your family?”
“Why didn’t you tell your friends?”
“Did you ever ask the doorman why he let Mr. Weinstein up?”
“Did you ever ask to see footage of him entering the building?”
“Did you go to a doctor?”
“Who were your friends at the time?”
Rotunno swiftly changed tracks to test if Sciorra remembered the minutest details of the night she said she was assaulted, including how much she drank and what others at the dinner drank. She asked Sciorra if she could recount where on the street Weinstein had parked his car, how long it took to drive to her apartment, and whether she remembered how her legs were positioned while she was allegedly being raped.
“Were they on the bed? Off the bed? On the floor?” Rotunno asked.
For most of Rotunno’s questioning, Weinstein faced the jury and looked around toward the back of the room, with his right arm draped over his chair. At one point, it appeared as if he nodded off.
Sciorra, best known for her role as Gloria Trillo in The Sopranos, was the first woman to testify against Weinstein. Sciorra’s complaint is beyond New York’s statute of limitations, but prosecutors intend to use her testimony to support the charge of predatory sexual assault — which carries a possible life sentence — in order to prove that Weinstein's behavior was a pattern.
Sciorra, often breaking down in sobs, recounted in graphic detail how Weinstein raped her in her Gramercy Park apartment sometime between 1993 and 1994.
Sciorra said she was starting to get ready for bed following a group dinner, when she heard a knock at her door. When she answered, she said Weinstein pushed his way in and began walking around “as if he was checking to see if I was alone in the apartment.”
“When he started to unbutton his shirt and then I realized that he wanted to have sex,” she testified in court, “I started to back up and thought I could make it into my bathroom. And I kept telling him it wasn’t going to happen.”
But before she got to the bathroom, Sciorra said Weinstein grabbed her by the front of her dress around her collar, led her into the bedroom, and raped her.
Sciorra, holding her arms crossed above her head to demonstrate how Weinstein allegedly had her pinned down, told jurors that she did not remember a lot of what happened next, but that Weinstein raped her, then performed nonconsensual oral sex on her.
After he was done, Sciorra said Weinstein ejaculated on her leg.
“I always have perfect timing,” she recounted he said before he left.
She testified that she did not report the alleged rape to police, saying she felt confused about what had happened.
“I thought … I thought he was a nice person, I thought he was an OK guy,” she said, sobbing. “At the time I thought rape was something that happened in the dark, in a back alley, something a stranger did to you with a gun to your head.”
Sciorra told jurors that she had a hard time telling anyone about what had happened to her. After the assault, she said, she became increasingly withdrawn and spent more and more time at her home in Gramercy Park. Sciorra said that at this time, she also began to self-harm.
“I had this wall in my apartment that was white, that I began to paint it a blood-red color with tubes of oil paint and blood from my hands.”
“Why were you doing that? Had you ever done anything like that before?” prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon asked.
“I didn’t feel good,” Sciorra sobbed. “And I didn’t want to go out.”
Sciorra said she met Weinstein two or three weeks after the assault, at a restaurant. She testified that she confronted him, telling him she had blacked out and fainted after the alleged attack.
“That’s what all the nice Catholic girls say,” she said he responded, before warning her, “this remains between you and I.”
Sciorra remained stoic through Rotunno’s questions, answering calmly. When the court broke for lunch, the Silence Breakers — a group of more than 80 women who have spoken out about Weinstein, including Lou Godbold, Katherine Kendall, and Ellen Barkin — sent Sciorra text messages and voice memos expressing support.
“You are the bravest of them all,” Barkin whispered into the phone.