Actress Annabella Sciorra Testifies That Harvey Weinstein Raped Her
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Actress Annabella Sciorra took the stand today at the criminal trial of Harvey Weinstein. She is the first of six women expected to testify that Weinstein raped or sexually assaulted them. The former film producer is charged with five counts. He maintains that all of his contact was consensual. NPR's Rose Friedman was in court all day and joins us from our New York bureau.
ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: Hi.
SHAPIRO: First, I just want to tell listeners that there are details in this story that some will find disturbing.
Sciorra was a very well-known actress in the '90s. She was also in "The Sopranos." What did she testify to at the trial today?
FRIEDMAN: She started by explaining that her agent introduced her to Harvey Weinstein at a party in LA in the early '90s. He actually gave her a ride home from that party, but nothing happened. She ended up sending a script to him that was by a friend and setting up a table reading, where he could sort of hear actors doing the script.
She hadn't actually intended to be in that film, but he insisted. She told him she was worn out from her exhausting shooting schedule on her last few movies, and he sent her gifts - some penis-shaped chocolates and a bottle of Valium. She still said no, and he threatened to sue her. So right away, listening to this, you really got a sense of his personality.
SHAPIRO: Wow. And how did she say those events led to the sexual assault?
FRIEDMAN: Yeah. This part of the story was really emotional for her. And for some listeners, it's definitely going to be disturbing.
So she describes going to an event in New York that had a dinner afterwards. She mentioned that there were a few people, including Weinstein; and also, Uma Thurman was there and a few others. She left the dinner a little early. And Weinstein offered her a ride home, which she says she accepted. She says he dropped her off at her apartment building. She went upstairs and got ready for bed.
And then a few minutes later, she says there was a knock at the door. She opened it, and Weinstein was standing in the hall. She says he pushed the door open and came inside, where he began - she thinks - looking around for anyone else in the apartment and unbuttoning his shirt.
She said in court that she never gave any indication that she was interested in a sexual relationship with Weinstein. She asked him to leave. And when he put his hands on her, she yelled and she fought. And then she described the rape in detail. And she said this. She said, I said no, but there was not much I could do at that point. My body shut down. It was just so disgusting that my body started to shake in a way that was unusual. I didn't even know what was happening. It was like a seizure.
SHAPIRO: Wow. Now, some of these details had been previously published in The New Yorker in the big expose that Ronan Farrow wrote. Right?
FRIEDMAN: Yeah, that's right. But you know, I think telling it to a magazine and telling it publicly in the courtroom can feel really different. At one point, she demonstrated how she said Weinstein held her down on the bed. She stood up and crossed her wrists high above her head. At times, she cried telling this story. She told the courtroom she tried to confront Weinstein about what he'd done later. She said - she told him she thought she'd blacked out afterwards. And she says he told her, that's what all the nice Catholic girls say.
SHAPIRO: Wow. And then his lawyers had an opportunity to cross-examine her. What happened then?
FRIEDMAN: Yeah. So as we said earlier, Weinstein's team maintained that all these incidents were consensual. Weinstein's lawyer Donna Rotunno did the questioning. She noted that Sciorra was an actress who took on different characters for a living. She also asked a lot of questions about the apartment - whether Weinstein could have gotten by the doorman, how he would have known her apartment number. She asked about the layout - why Sciorra couldn't have gotten away, whether there were neighbors who would have heard her. And she also asked why didn't Sciorra it to the police. And Sciorra said at the time, she felt that rape was something that happened in a back alley by someone you didn't know.
SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Rose Friedman on a disturbing day of testimony in the Harvey Weinstein trial in New York.
Thank you, Rose.
FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Ari.
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