Actress Rosie Perez testified for nearly an hour Friday afternoon in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial in New York, corroborating friend Annabella Sciorra’s previous testimony that Sciorra had told her of the rape back in 1993.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys raised repeated objections and continued to clash about the larger narrative Perez was trying to establish — that Sciorra had been raped by Weinstein in the actress’ apartment more than 25 years ago.
The trial in New York Supreme Court is in its third week. Weinstein faces five felony counts of sexual assault. He has insisted all sexual encounters have been consensual. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Under questioning from Assistant D.A. Joan Illuzzi, Perez recalled telephoning Sciorra one night to “go to a nightclub and hang out.” The two had met in the early 1990s and became fast friends as their careers were on the rise. “She responded in a weird voice,” Perez continued, adopting the low, tremulous whisper she said she had heard on the phone. “She said, ‘I think something bad happened …. I think I was raped.”
Sciorra herself offered her own recollections about the incident in testimony Thursday. On Friday, lawyers from both sides argued over whether Perez should be allowed to testify about the same material, but Judge James Burke ruled she would be allowed to appear as a witness.
Perez supported Sciorra’s testimony that she had woken up after the alleged assault with her nightgown up. The nightgown, she and Perez recalled, was a family heirloom.
Sciorra was crying uncontrollably, Perez recalled. After Weinstein pinned her arms above her head, “She told me he [ejaculated] on her nightgown and I said, ‘All over the family heirloom’ and she was crying.” the actress recalled.
“She told me never to tell anybody, but I told her to go to the police. She said she can’t because ‘he will destroy me.’” Perez said she kept trying Sciorra back. “She was so upset,” she said. “And she didn’t pick up the phone.”
Perez faced intense cross-examination from defense attorney Damon Cheronis, who sought to establish that Perez demonstrated questionable behavior in not responding more forcefully to her friend’s report in the moment. Plus, over the years, Cheronis worked to establish, Perez had fudged the timeline of when she heard about Sciorra’s allegations and how she recounted them to journalist Ronan Farrow, who included the account in his early Weinstein reporting.
Cheronis aimed to show that Perez had contradicted her testimony on Friday when she spoke with Farrow. He brandished a copy of Farrow’s 2017 New Yorker article, in which Perez is quoted saying she learned about the rape well after it allegedly occurred, not in the immediate aftermath.
At one point, Perez, star of films like Do the Right Thing and a former co-host of The View, managed to break the tension and draw a ripple of light chuckles from the courtroom when she asked, in her trademark Brooklyn accent, “Does anybody have reading glasses?” Cheronis obliged, and she spent a few seconds reviewing the article before asserting that whatever was printed did not necessarily represent the full account she shared with Farrow.
Cheronis grew less chivalrous a few moments later, asking Perez why she hadn’t gone to Sciorra’s apartment as soon as she heard her friend crying and saying she had been raped. “I was being respectful,” she said.
“Being respectful of a friend who may have been assaulted that night?!” Cherones scoffed.
Illuzzi objected, but Judge James Burke overruled, allowing Perez to answer.
“I was in a panic,” she explained. “When you have a girlfriend who tells you something like that, you don’t know what to do. She was my very good friend. I was in shock. I was in a panic. I remember I kept calling her, crying, but she wouldn’t pick up.”
Perez, clad in black, her hair falling in neatly trimmed bangs, maintained her composure until the end of her testimony. She recalled talking to friend and MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace about Sciorra’s experience with Weinstein as reporting by Farrow and the New York Times was set to spill details to the public and kick-start the #MeToo movement. “I was afraid I had broken my promise to her,” Perez said, her voice breaking.
As Perez testified, Weinstein chewed gum and looked directly at her. A sunbeam came through the window and illuminated his face.