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Judge says actress Rosie Perez can testify at Weinstein trial

Updated January 24, 2020 - 12:01 pm

NEW YORK — “Do The Right Thing” actress Rosie Perez is set to testify at Harvey Weinstein’s trial to back up fellow screen star Annabella Sciorra’s allegation that he raped her in the mid-1990s.

Over objections from Weinstein’s lawyers, judge James Burke decided Friday to let Perez take the stand. Sciorra told jurors Thursday that Perez, a friend, was one of a few people she told about the encounter before coming forward publicly in 2017.

Sciorra said the then-powerful movie producer pushed his way into her New York apartment, pinned her on a bed and forced himself on her in 1993 or 1994.

Prosecutors have said Sciorra told Perez weeks or months later that she thought something bad had happened to her and believed she had been raped.

According to prosecutors, Perez surmised through subsequent conversations that Weinstein was the alleged attacker, and an upset Sciorra told Perez that was true when she asked.

Weinstein denies ever having nonconsensual sex.

His lawyers said Perez shouldn’t be allowed to testify, arguing that her account would be hearsay. Such testimony is sometimes allowed in sexual assault cases if an alleged victim spoke to another person promptly, but the defense said Sciorra’s conversations with Perez don’t qualify.

Perez gave a memorable performance in “Do The Right Thing” in 1989 and is also known for such movies as “White Men Can’t Jump.” She was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for 1993’s “Fearless.”

Why stay in contact?

It’s the defense’s go-to question at Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial: If he’s such a monster, why did some of his accusers stay in friendly contact with him for years after the alleged assaults?

Prosecutors sought to give jurors some answers Friday by calling to the stand a forensic psychiatrist who testified about the same topic at the Pennsylvania trial that led to Bill Cosby’s 2018 conviction on charges of sexually assaulting a woman.

Dr. Barbara Ziv told Weinstein’s jury of seven men and five women that most sex-assault victims continue to have contact with their attackers, who often threaten retaliation if the victims tell anyone what happened.

Victims are “hoping that this is just an aberration,” she said, and they tell themselves: “‘I can put it in a box and forget about it. I don’t want it to get worse. … I can handle this physical trauma, but God forbid this ruins the rest of my life.’”

Victims can end up blaming themselves “without knowing that their behavior is entirely expected,” said Ziv, who has described herself as an expert on “sexual assault victim behavior” who has evaluated more than 1,000 such people.

Defense offers explanation

She did not, however, evaluate any of Weinstein’s accusers, a point his lawyers seized on.

They have also offered a different explanation for the women’s continued contact with him after the alleged attacks. In his opening statement this week, Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis zeroed in on a message from one woman telling Weinstein that she loved him and wanted him to meet her mother.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s not how you talk to your predator,” Cheronis said.

Weinstein, a onetime studio boss whose downfall energized the #MeToo movement, is charged with forcibly performing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in his New York apartment in 2006 and raping an aspiring actress in a New York hotel room in 2013.

The 67-year-old producer of such Oscar-winning movies as “Chicago” and “The King’s Speech” has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual. He could get life in prison if convicted.

Thursday’s court session was consumed by actress Annabella Sciorra’s testimony that Weinstein overpowered and raped her after pushing his way into her New York apartment in 1993 or 1994.

Weinstein’s lawyers seized on her actions after the alleged assault. Defense attorney Donna Rotunno questioned why Sciorra made the 1997 Weinstein-produced film “Cop Land” if he had raped her a few years earlier.

Sciorra, now 59, said she wasn’t aware of Weinstein’s involvement until she had agreed to appear in the film.

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