‘Violent encounters’: Weinstein rape trial opens


One-time Hollywood star-maker Harvey Weinstein was "a sexual predator and a rapist" who used his "power and prestige" to silence his alleged victims, a New York court was told.

In her opening statement to the New York State Supreme Court, Manhattan Assistant District lawyer Meghan Hast said evidence in Weinstein's criminal rape trial would show his alleged victims felt "shame and humiliation following their violent encounters with the defendant".

"During this trial, you're going to learn that the defendant was a savvy, powerful Hollywood producer … but the evidence both from the witness stand and evidence … will show that that man was a sexual predator and a rapist," Ms Hast said.

Ms Hast showed pictures in the courtroom of Weinstein on red carpets, and posing with former with luminaries including former US President Bill Clinton.

She said Weinstein "violently and forcibly" raped Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra in the winter of 1993-94, sexually assaulted Miriam Haleyi in 2006 and raped a third woman in 2013.

"The 110-pound Miriam was no match for the 300-pound Weinstein … He pushed her onto the bed, put his weight on top of her, and held her down."

Weeks later, Ms Haleyi "saw no way out" and "walked back to the man who violently sexually assaulted her," meeting him at a hotel where she was sexually assaulted again.

Ms Hast said another accuser, Jessica Mann, was an aspiring actor from a dairy farm in Washington state. Ms Mann was in New York in March 2013 when Weinstein came to her hotel room. Having already had at least one unwanted sexual encounter with Weinstein, she was "panicked," Ms Hast said.

"He demanded she take off her clothes in the hotel room and forcibly undressed her … Realising the danger of resisting, Jessica relented and got undressed. He came back out of bathroom, got on top of her and raped her … Jessica just laid there."

"This is not the typical date-rape scenario," Ms Hast said. "Here the rapist was at the very pinnacle of the profession (that) his victims wanted to be in."

She said the prosecution would be bringing in a doctor to testify that many sexual assault victims continue to be in contact with their assailants after their assault.

Weinstein's lawyer Damon Cheronis said Jessica Mann wanted to introduce Weinstein to her mother.

"The (prosecution) just told you that Jessica wanted to break free from Harvey, but that's not true," said Mr Cheronis, who referred to emails between Weinstein and some of his accusers, including Ms Mann.

After the alleged assault on Ms Mann in her hotel, Mr Cheronis said, the woman told a friend she wanted to stay an extra day in New York, and the next day attended an Oscar party as Weinstein's guest.

Quoting from emails, Mr Cheronis said it was "almost always" Ms Mann who reached out to Weinstein.

"Jessica tells Harvey, 'I appreciate all you do for me, it shows.' April 17, Jessica writes: 'It would be great to see you again and catch up.' August 16th, Jessica emails Harvey that she wants 'time privately' with him."

Mr Cheronis said Ms Mann described Weinstein as her "casual boyfriend" in a note entry on her phone.

Weinstein, 67, is on trial on five charges, including rape and sexual assault, stemming from encounters with two accusers, one who says he raped her in 2013 and the other who says he sexually assaulted her in 2006. He has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.

Earlier this month, the embattled ex-studio head was hit with additional sex-crime charges in Los Angeles.