Harvey Weinstein’s hiring of Black Cube, a private intelligence agency run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies, became a key topic on an otherwise subdued day at his rape trial in New York.
The trial is likely to heat back up Friday when prosecutors call Jessica Mann to the witness stand. Mann, a hairdresser and former actress, is one of two women whose allegations against Weinstein form the basis of the criminal case against him. She alleges that Weinstein raped her in her hotel room in 2013.
Black Cube was retained by Weinstein via his law firm, Boies Schiller. According to reporting by the New Yorker and others, agency investigators reportedly adopted false identities in order to obtain information about Weinstein’s accusers, among them Rose McGowan and Annabella Sciorra. The role of Black Cube, once it was revealed two years ago, aroused enough suspicion that federal prosecutors looked into charging Weinstein in 2018.
Dev Sen, a corporate attorney from Boies Schiller, gave brief testimony on Thursday, confirming that the firm had hired Black Cube at Weinstein’s behest.
Debate among legal teams and Judge James Burke about the scope of Sen’s testimony and the materials that would be allowed into evidence consumed far more time in the courtroom than did his few minutes on the stand. With the jury out of the courtroom, both sides aired their views on the role Black Cube — an explosive aspect of the reporting about Weinstein by Ronan Farrow and others, could play in the trial.
Defense attorney Damon Cheronis reiterated his objections to a contract between Black Cube and Boies Schiller that prosecutors sought to enter into evidence. He cited attorney-client privilege and questioning what he said was a lack of relevance to the main criminal charges. Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi countered that an email from Black Cube to Boies Schiller indicated a “red flag” next to the name of actress Annabella Sciorra. In Farrow’s reports, and last week in testimony at the New York Trial, Sciorra’s allegations of a violent sexual assault perpetrated by Weinstein have proven especially potent.
Burke leaned toward Cheronis, limiting the scope of what Sen could discuss and requesting significant redactions in the contract. “Just because an eyedrop [of evidence] comes in doesn’t mean an ocean can come in,” he said. “Let [the contract] speak for itself, is what I’m saying.” Sen’s testimony included only the barest of exchanges with prosecutors, with virtually no cross-examination from the defense.
Accusations of sexual assault and misconduct by Weinstein have yielded five felony counts against him. If convicted, he could face life in prison. Los Angeles authorities have also charged him, and proceedings there will follow the outcome of the New York trial, which started January 6. Weinstein has maintained that all sexual encounters were consensual.
Other witnesses testifying Thursday morning included Monika Mikkelsen, a casting director whose resume includes the 2006 Weinstein Co. film Pulse. Prosecutors brought Mikkelsen to the witness stand in order to establish that a role in Pulse offered by Harvey Weinstein to aspiring actress Dawn Dunning was never a legitimate offer because his brother, Bob Weinstein, controlled all aspects of genre films like Pulse.
Burke dismissed the jury before noon in advance of Friday’s testimony by Mann, which is expected to take the full day. While the punctilious judge conceded he does not like cutting days short, he said one reason the trial is ahead of its initial 14-week schedule is “because of these breaks,” which he said increase efficiency.