The names of Charlize Theron and Salma Hayek surfaced Wednesday during Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial in New York Supreme Court during testimony about his alleged intimidation tactics.
Dawn Dunning, who says Weinstein sexually assaulted and threatened her in 2004, though she is not one of the two formal accusers in his case, took the witness stand. As with actress Annabella Sciorra and other women who have accused Weinstein of misconduct, Dunning is testifying as a “Molineaux” witness. Prosecutors are calling the Molineaux witnesses in an effort to establish a pattern of broader conduct by Weinstein and a history of what the law considers “prior bad acts” that have relevance to the current charges
Now 40, Dunning met Weinstein as a 24-year-old waitress at a nightclub in New York’s Meatpacking District. An aspiring actress, she had moved to New York from her native Ohio at age 15 to study dance at New York University and later attended Parsons School of Design and the Lee Strasberg Institute. She now works in creative services for advertising brands.
Dunning testified about two meetings with Weinstein while she believed she was under consideration for roles in Derailed (a Clive Owen thriller that was the Weinstein Co.’s first release in 2005) and two other films. At the first meeting in a downtown hotel, Dunning says Weinstein slipped his hand up her skirt and briefly inserted a finger into her vagina. She recalls standing up in shock and leaving quickly as the former mogul apologized and implored her not to “make a big deal of it.”
A month later, she says he proposed a threesome at a meeting in a suite at a Midtown hotel. When Dunning declined, she testified, Weinstein grew agitated, screaming at her that she would need to trade sex for career opportunities.
Brandishing contracts for the film parts and wearing an open hotel bathrobe, Weinstein said, “I’ll sign these today if you’ll have a threesome with us,” indicating his assistant at the time, who was standing nearby in the suite, Dunning testified.
“I laughed. I thought he was kidding,” Dunning said, responding to questions from prosecutor Meghan Hast. Her voice broke when she described Weinstein’s enraged reaction to her rejection. “He got really angry. He said, ‘You’ll never make it in this business! This is how the industry works!” He dropped the names of Theron and Hayek as examples of those who got ahead based on what they were willing to do. (Neither actress has been formally part of the Weinstein case, though each has spoken candidly about their experiences as the #MeToo movement has unfolded over the past two-plus years.)
Weinstein faces five felony counts stemming from the allegations of two women. His legal team has maintained that all encounters were consensual. If convicted, Weinstein faces life in prison.
Dunning recalled largely innocuous dealings with Weinstein in the months preceding the two encounters. “He would make comments about my looks or my body but it wasn’t any worse than what I dealt with at nightclubs or anywhere else,” she said. “There were no red flags” that would have prevented her from attending private meetings with him.
In 2004, Weinstein and his brother Bob’s Miramax Films was going through a rancorous divorce with Disney after an eventful decade as arm’s-length business partners. The brothers would soon resurface with a newly financed independent entity, the Weinstein Co. Even in that time of transition, though, Harvey Weinstein remained a towering figure in the entertainment business. Asked why she continued to have dealings with Weinstein following the first hotel encounter, Dunning said, “I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen. I didn’t want to be a victim. I was trying to get work from him, so it was a work relationship. … It was a really big deal for me.”
Arthur Aidala cross-examined Dunning, focusing on the motive behind her numerous media appearances in the fall of 2017 and her dealings with the Manhattan District Attorney since going public with her charges. Hast raised frequent objections during the cross-examinations. Most were sustained by Judge James Burke, who chided Aidala for making sweeping statements instead of asking Dunning questions. “If you have a specific question, please ask it.”
Aidala quizzed Dunning about her resume, trying to undermine her earlier testimony that the interactions with Weinstein had driven her from show business. He also got her to confirm that she had retained an attorney after disclosing her claims because “the only way you could sue Harvey Weinstein is if he was charged with a crime.”
At the end of her direct examination, Hast asked Dunning, “Are you getting anything from this?” In other words, she wanted the jury to hear, was she benefiting from going public with her story and taking the witness stand?
“No,” Dunning said, a sob rising in her throat. “If anything, I’m losing. I’m spending money, I’m spending time. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
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