New York: Harvey Weinstein accuser Mimi Haleyi testified on Monday that weeks after arriving in New York to work for one of his shows, she found herself fighting in vain as the once-revered showbiz honcho pushed her onto a bed and sexually assaulted her, undeterred by her kicks and pleas of, “no, please don’t do this, I don’t want it.”
Haleyi was the first to testify of the two women whose allegations led to Weinstein's New York City criminal case. Sobbing at times, she described how the film producer turned a friendly meeting at his Manhattan apartment in June 2006 into a terrifying ordeal that had her contemplating escape plans as he forcibly performed oral sex on her.
“I was kicking, I was pushing, I was trying to get away from his grip," the former “Project Runway” production assistant testified. "He held me down and kept pushing me down to the bed. Every time I tried to get up he pushed me down.”
Haleyi, now 42, told jurors she thought, “I’m being raped,” and wondered “If I scream rape, will someone hear me?” She said she told Weinstein she was menstruating in an attempt to deter him, but that didn't stop him.
“I checked out and decided to endure it," she said. “That was the safest thing I could do.”
Yet just two weeks later, Haleyi said, she was accepting an invitation to Weinstein's hotel room, where he pulled her into bed for sex.
Haleyi said she “just felt like an idiot” for letting Weinstein convince her to meet again, but thought seeing him could help her regain power as she tried to make sense of the alleged assault. Haleyi said she didn't want to be intimate with Weinstein, but said she didn't think Weinstein forced her to have sex.
Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis zeroed in on Haleyi's continued interactions with Weinstein, scrutinising her emails and calendar entries marked “HW” during cross-examination. He noted that she kept exchanging warm messages with him, pitched him on a TV show and made several trips on his dime, including jetting off to Los Angeles the day after the alleged assault and flying to London about a month later.
When they couldn’t connect before she left London, she sent Weinstein's assistant an email lamenting: “totally bummed to have missed you guys.”
Explaining the fraught dynamics, Haleyi said she no longer feared Weinstein after “he basically had taken what he wanted” in the hotel room encounter and “wasn’t pursuing me in that manner” any longer.
In what seemed designed to be an aha moment, Cheronis asked Haleyi if the reason she kept in touch with Weinstein was "because he never sexually assaulted you.”
Haleyi pulled up the microphone, smiled exasperatedly and said: “No.”
In all, six accusers are expected to testify, but because of the statute of limitations and other legal technicalities, Weinstein is charged in only two incidents.
They are the alleged rape of an aspiring actress in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and the alleged sexual assault of Haleyi. Under New York law applicable at the time, Weinstein is not being charged with rape in connection with Haleyi's accusations.
Weinstein, 67, has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual.
Haleyi went public with her allegations at an October 2017 news conference, appearing in front of cameras alongside lawyer Gloria Allred, who also represents Sciorra and other Weinstein accusers.
Haleyi, born in Helsinki, Finland, and raised in Sweden, said she met Weinstein while in her 20s at the 2004 London premiere of the Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Aviator.”
They crossed paths again in Cannes in 2006 and, when she expressed interest in working on one of his productions, he invited her to his hotel room and asked for a massage. She declined, saying she was “extremely humiliated.”
More meetings followed, and Weinstein secured Haleyi a job helping on the set of “Project Runway,” the reality competition show he produced. She testified that before the alleged assault, Weinstein showed up at her apartment and begged her to join him on a trip to Paris for a fashion show.
“At one point, because I just didn’t know how to shut it down so to speak. ... So I said, ‘You know you have a terrible reputation with women, I’ve heard,’” Haleyi testified.
She said that offended Weinstein and he stepped back and said, "What have you heard?”
Asked by prosecutor Meghan Hast if she had any romantic or sexual interest in Weinstein, Haleyi firmly answered: “Not at all, no.”
Haleyi said she didn’t call the police about the alleged assault because she was working in the U.S. on a tourist visa and was scared of Weinstein’s power and connections, telling jurors: “I didn’t think I’d stand a chance.”
Weinstein was jotting notes in a thick yellow notebook through most of Haleyi’s account, but looked at her and shook his head when she described their encounter. Weinstein has not been charged in connection with that incident.
The jury of seven men and five women heard last week from “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who testified that Weinstein overpowered and raped her after barging into her apartment in the mid-1990s. While outside the statute of limitations for criminal charges, Sciorra's allegations could be a factor as prosecutors look to prove Weinstein has engaged in a pattern of predatory behavior.
Jurors also heard from Dr. Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist who said that most sex assault victims continue to have contact with their attackers, often under threat of retaliation if the victims tell anyone what happened.
On the stand Monday, Haleyi said she dealt with the alleged assaults by compartmentalizing, occasionally interacting with Weinstein on a professional basis bypassing along scripts from friends or discussing work opportunities.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how to deal with it so it’s almost like I put it away in a box, like it didn’t happen and I just carried along as usual,” Haleyi said. Film Festival in 2006 and, when she expressed interest in working on one of his productions, he invited her to his hotel room and asked for a massage.
She declined, saying she felt "extremely humiliated". "I felt stupid because I was so excited to go see him and he treated me that way," she testified.
More meetings followed, and Weinstein secured Haleyi a job helping on the set of 'Project Runway', the reality competition show he produced. She testified that before the alleged assault, Weinstein showed up at her apartment and begged her to join him a trip to Paris for a fashion show.
"At one point, because I just didn't know how to shut it down so to speak...So I said, 'You know you have a terrible reputation with women, I've heard,'" Haleyi said.
The then-revered Hollywood honcho "got offended", she said. "He stepped back and said, 'What have you heard?'"
Asked by prosecutor Meghan Hast if she had any romantic or sexual interest in Weinstein, Haleyi firmly answered: "Not at all, no."
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault, unless they agree to be named as Haleyi and Sciorra have.
In testifying, Haleyi will have to deal with a defense team that said it plans to confront Weinstein's accusers with their own words messages they exchanged with Weinstein well after the alleged assaults.
Weinstein's lawyers argue the positive-sounding emails and texts call into question the accusers' accounts.
The jury of seven men and five women also heard testimony from Dr Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist who said that most sex assault victims continue to have contact with their attackers, often under threat of retaliation if the victims tell anyone what happened.
Some of Haleyi's messages were made public last year when Weinstein's lawyers sought to get his case dismissed. One sent to Weinstein's phone in 2007 reads: "Hi! Just wondering if u have any news on whether Harvey will have time to see me before he leaves? X Miriam."