A costume designer and former actress told jurors in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial in Manhattan on Wednesday (29) that the former Hollywood mogul groped her under her skirt and later propositioned her for sex in exchange for film contracts.
Dawn Dunning is not among the women Weinstein is charged with assaulting and is one of several “prior bad acts” witnesses the prosecution has called to demonstrate a pattern of behaviour by Weinstein.
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann. Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. He denies any non-consensual sex.
Dunning said that in spring 2004, Weinstein invited her to a hotel in Soho where a film was being staged. She said when she arrived Weinstein led her into a bedroom and, without warning, put her hand up her skirt and on her vagina.
“It was a few seconds, but I just kind of froze for a minute and then stood up,” Dunning told the court. “He told me not to make a big deal about it. He apologised, said it wouldn’t happen again.”
A few weeks later, Dunning testified, Weinstein’s assistant invited her to another meeting in a hotel to discuss acting opportunities. When she arrived she said Weinstein greeted her in a bathrobe, and told her he would sign her for his next three films if she had three-way sex with him and his assistant.
’You’ll never make it in this business. This is how this industry works.’
Dunning said she laughed, thinking it was a joke, but Weinstein became angry and screamed at her, “You’ll never make it in this business. This is how this industry works.” He added that other actresses, including Salma Hayek and Charlize Theron, had helped their careers in the same way.
Dunning said she ran out of the room to the elevator while Weinstein continued to scream behind her.
Later in the day another “prior bad acts” witness, model and former cocktail waitress Tarale Wulff, wept on the witness stand as she told jurors that Weinstein pinned her down and raped her in 2005.
Wulff said she thought she was going to an audition. But when she arrived at Weinstein’s office, she was directed to get into a waiting car, which took her to his apartment. There, she said she found him all alone, and he beckoned her into a bedroom. She said he held her arms and put her down on the bed.
“I told him, ‘I can’t,’” she testified. “He answers, ’Don’t worry, I had a vasectomy.”
She said she was shocked – and recalled that Weinstein was able to hold her down with his massive weight.
“I just went blank… and he put himself inside me and he raped me,” Wulff said.
She said that afterward, Weinstein took her back to his company’s offices where she assumed she would resume the meeting with a casting executive she had met, before being asked to get into the waiting car, which took her to Weinstein’s apartment where she alleges she was raped. She never reported the rape or told anyone. And she never got the audition she was told she would with Weinstein.
’It’s easiest for me just to pretend like it didn’t happen… and go back to work.’
“I just wanted it to go away,” she said, crying. “It’s easiest for me just to pretend like it didn’t happen… and go back to work.”
Wulff, now a 43-year old model based in Brooklyn, said she first met Weinstein when she worked as a waitress at the members-only lounge Cipriani Soho Upstairs, which regularly had celebrity guests and high-end clientele.
“Our job was to accommodate them and make them happy,” she said, adding that she was expected to tend to the owner’s friends, including Weinstein.
Shortly after first meeting Weinstein, Wulff said he stood up and grabbed her arm and led her up a staircase. Once they got up the stairs, she noticed that the manager of the lounge, named Mauricio, was standing at the back door. “Mauricio saw me, but then he shut the door” Wulff said.
Wulff said she assumed Weinstein was bringing her to a private area to possibly continuing their conversation about her as an actress, but then she realised Weinstein was masturbating in front of her.
“Once he had me in front of him, at some point, I said, ‘I have to get back to work,’ and he was like, one second, one second,’” she recalled. “And I noticed that his shirt started moving… and I realized he was masturbating under his shirt.”
Wulff said she froze for a moment, then threw a towel at him. She scooted around him and ran downstairs to get back to work. She asked other waitress to cover her table so she wouldn’t have to serve Weinstein. She said she never told anyone about the incident.
A few weeks later, she said she was contacted by an employee at Weinstein’s company to take a meeting with a casting director. She accepted the meeting, feeling nervous, excited and hopeful for the opportunity.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Donna Rotunno asked Wulff why she had not characterised the second encounter as a “rape” during her initial meeting with prosecutors. She also noted that Wulff had subsequently seen a therapist, with a referral from the District Attorney’s office, and suggested that the sessions were intended to recover memories of the incident.
Jurors in the trial have already heard from Haleyi, who worked as a production assistant on the TV show Project Runway. She testified on Monday that Weinstein invited her to his Manhattan home in July 2006 and attacked her, backing her into a bedroom and forcing oral sex on her.
The court has also heard from The Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, who testified last week that Weinstein forced his way into her Manhattan apartment one winter night in 1993 or 1994 and violently raped her.
Weinstein’s lawyers have sought to undermine the women’s allegations through cross-examination, emphasising that Sciorra did not report her alleged rape to authorities, and that Haleyi remained in contact with Weinstein after her alleged assault, at times asking him for jobs.
Mann, a former aspiring actress, has not testified yet. Prosecutors have said Weinstein raped her in 2013.