Defying initial projections that it would last well into March, Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial in New York Supreme Court is moving at a steady pace as it nears the end of its fourth week. The major prosecution witnesses are likely to have taken the stand by early next week.
Wednesday’s testimony saw onetime aspiring actress Dawn Dunning and former waitress Tarale Wulff describe multiple alleged incidents in which Weinstein committed sexual misconduct and assault. Four women have taken the stand in the trial, but most have been Molineaux witnesses, meaning their charges are not the formal basis of the case but may illustrate a pattern of behavior by the defendant.
Wulff, a 43-year-old model who first met Weinstein in 2005 while working at Cipriani SoHo, recounted an evening at the nightspot when Weinstein masturbated in front of her, and another occasion when he pushed her down on a bed and raped her. As Weinstein “put himself inside me,” Wulff recalled, “I told him, ‘I can’t’ and he told me, ‘Don’t worry, I had a vasectomy.’”
Weinstein, who has been accused by more than 80 women, is facing five felony counts stemming from the claims of two women in New York. He has insisted all sexual encounters were consensual. If convicted, he faces life in prison. After the New York trial concludes, he will face charges in LA that were announced earlier this month.
On Thursday, the prosecution plans to call as many as five witnesses. The group is slated to include Dunning’s former fiancé, a Cipriani manager, an employee at law firm Boies Schiller, who will detail the firm’s hiring of the Black Cube security firm. Another witness will be one of the casting directors of Pulse, a 2006 Weinstein Co. release. The prosecution says Weinstein dangled a part for Dunning in Pulse, without revealing to her that his brother, Bob Weinstein, was controlling the production and that his overture therefore carried less weight.
Defense lawyers and prosecutors squabbled numerous times during several intervals on Wednesday. At the end of the day, defense attorney Damon Cheronis said the defense was objecting to every possible witness the prosecution planned to call on Thursday. Judge James Burke denied at least one request to bar witnesses, with more rulings expected on future days. Cheronis said Dunning’s fiancé should not be allowed to testify because Dunning is not accusing Weinstein of sexual assault. Earlier Wednesday, Dunning had described Weinstein digitally penetrating her and then demanding a threesome. Even so, Cheronis maintained, “There was no grabbing, no force. Our position is that he should not be allowed to testify. … They cannot fit this into an attempted sexual assault. That’s not what it was.”
Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said Dunning’s immediate reaction to the incidents, as seen through someone who was close to her at the time, is legitimate. “Her returning straight home and his observations of her demeanor are relevant testimony,” she said.
Cheronis lodged a similar objection to the jury being allowed to hear from the Pulse casting director. Illuzzi responded that the deliberate misdirection alleged in that situation goes to “the whole concept of tricking women into his lair.”
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