Jessica Mann, who has accused Harvey Weinstein of multiple instances of rape and sexual abuse, broke down in sobs on the witness stand Monday as she recounted prior sexual abuse, prompting New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke to dismiss the jury until tomorrow morning.
“I’m having a panic attack,” Mann was heard to say after she returned from a brief recess, still unable to contain herself. The comment was not made in front of the jury, which had not returned from the five-minute break.
The emotional moment came during an afternoon of cross-examination in which Weinstein seemed to doze off momentarily. As he left the courtroom at the end of the day’s testimony, Weinstein ignored a reporter’s shouted question as to why he fell asleep, saying only “Oh, please.”
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By late afternoon, though – more than five hours into the cross-examination – the rape trial was anything but snooze-inducing. Mann was reading a lengthy 2014 email she’d written to her boyfriend in which she explained her relationship with Weinstein – a relationship that was an ongoing point of contention with her boyfriend.
Becoming increasingly emotional as she read the email – which Weinstein defense attorney Donna Rotunno had entered into evidence – a weeping Mann recounted how she’d insisted to her boyfriend “Eddie” that Weinstein “validated” her and that she’d tried to make the mogul a “pseudo-father.” Weinstein, she read, had “always offered to help me in ways my parents didn’t.” Mann had previously testified that she grew up in an “extremely religious pentecostal cult,” and in the email to her boyfriend said that she “accepted that my father was an older man who dated women younger than me.”
“Harvey was my father’s age and he gave me all the validation I needed,” Mann wrote to her boyfriend, identified in court as “Eddie.” Her email indicated that she had set clear “boundaries” with Weinstein and that the onetime Miramax honcho had “always been very nice” to her.
Mann also had written her boyfriend that Weinstein did not have a “working penis” due to “a fire” or possibly a deformity.
Mann’s words became unintelligible when she reached a part of the email in which she seemingly made reference to an instance of sexual abuse in her past. The judge then called for a short break and dismissed the jury and the weeping witness.
After a five-minute break, Mann re-entered the courtroom, still sobbing. Both prosecution and defense attorneys huddled with her at the witness stand before she stood and, seeming to begin to hyperventilate, exited the stand and the courtroom.
The judge recalled and dismissed the jury, halting the trial until tomorrow morning.
Neither Rotunno nor Mann had yet to attempt to provide context for Mann’s email to her boyfriend, which Mann sent on May 22, 2014, after the alleged rapes. The defense is likely to argue that Mann was being truthful in the email; Mann could say she was merely attempting to placate a jealous boyfriend. She has repeatedly indicated that she had not told family or friends of the alleged abuse out of embarrassment and shame.
Mann, formerly an aspiring actress, alleges that on several occasions beginning in 2013, Weinstein raped her orally and vaginally in encounters that began with him demanding a massage at a suite at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills after the two had met there for dinner to discuss a possible role in the film Vampire Academy. Another assault, she says, occurred the following year at a New York hotel when she was visiting the city with two friends.
Weinstein has maintained that all sexual encounters with all of his accusers have been consensual. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Earlier this afternoon during cross-examination by the defense, Mann struggled to place into a timeline her relationship with Weinstein, the alleged attacks and the various seemingly friendly emails she exchanged with Weinstein following those attacks.
After saying she “couldn’t attach a timeline” to the events, Rotunno said sternly, “Because it doesn’t help you to attach a timeline.”
“It would help me,” Mann responded.
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