Weinstein accuser describes alleged assault in court
NEW YORK — As she tried to fight off Harvey Weinstein’s advances, Mimi Haleyi told him “no, no, no” before he held her down on a bed and forcibly performed oral sex on her, she said in emotional testimony Monday at Weinstein’s trial.
Haleyi, one of two women whose assault accusations led to Weinstein’s trial, took the stand Monday and, at times sobbing, detailed her allegation that the disgraced movie mogul sexually assaulted her at his New York City apartment in 2006.
“I did reject him, but he insisted. Every time I tried to get off the bed, he would push me back and hold me down,” the former “Project Runway” production assistant testified, adding that she told Weinstein she was menstruating in an attempt to deter him.
Haleyi, now 42, told jurors she thought, “I’m being raped,” and considered different options. “If I scream rape, will someone hear me?” she wondered.
“I checked out and decided to endure it,” she said. “That was the safest thing I could do.”
Haleyi is the first of the two women at the heart of the case to take the stand at his trial. A total of six accusers are expected to testify, but because of the statute of limitations and other legal technicalities, Weinstein is charged in only two incidents: 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.
One of his attorneys, Damon Cheronis, used his cross examination to zero in on Haleyi’s continued relationship with Weinstein after the alleged assault.
He showed jurors a friendly email she sent him after they ran into each other at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Cheronis pointed to calendar entries and emails that show Haleyi meeting with Weinstein, pitching him on a television show and traveling at his expense to Los Angeles and London. When they couldn’t connect before she left London, she sent him an email lamenting: “totally bummed to have missed you guys.”
Haleyi conceded she’d been in contact with Weinstein “not often, but yes occasionally” and that she sent the 2008 email after a newspaper article reminded her of a conversation they had weeks before the alleged assault.
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 has.
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.
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.”
Haleyi also described a second encounter a few weeks after the alleged assault in a Tribeca hotel room where she said she “went numb” as he took her hand, pulled her toward the bed and had intercourse with her.
She said she didn’t call the police because she was working in the U.S. on a tourist visa and was scared of Weinstein’s power, telling jurors: “Obviously, Mr. Weinstein has a lot more power and resources and connections and so forth. I didn’t think I’d stand a chance.”
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 have sex with Weinstein that night, but during Cheronis’ cross examination, she was asked whether Weinstein forced her to have sex during that encounter.
“No,” Haleyi said.
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.
This story has been corrected to show that Mimi Haleyi was born in Helsinki, Finland, not England as prosecutors initially said.
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