Harvey Weinstein's New York rape trial moves on after explosive testimony

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[January 28, 2020]   By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's New York rape trial is expected to continue on Tuesday, following explosive testimony from two women who have accused him of sexual assault.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann. Haleyi has already testified against him, as has another woman, actress Annabella Sciorra.

While Sciorra's allegation is too old to support a separate rape charge against Weinstein, prosecutors hope it will show he is a repeat sexual predator - a charge that could put him in prison for life.

Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

The accusations fueled the #MeToo movement, in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct. The trial is widely seen as a watershed moment for the movement.

Weinstein, who reshaped the independent film industry with critically acclaimed pictures such as “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has denied the allegations and said any sexual encounters were consensual.

Haleyi, who worked as a production assistant on a Weinstein television show, told jurors on Monday that Weinstein invited her to his Manhattan home in July 2006 and attacked her, backing her into a bedroom and forcing oral sex on her.

One of Weinstein's lawyers, Damon Cheronis, cross-examined her about her continued contact with Weinstein after the alleged attack, including friendly emails and a meeting in London. Haleyi said she had "buried" the memory of the encounter and tried to maintain a professional and social relationship with Weinstein.

Sciorra, known for her role on HBO's "The Sopranos," testified last week that Weinstein forced his way into her Manhattan apartment one winter night in 1993 or 1994 and violently raped her.

During cross-examination, another one of Weinstein's lawyers, Donna Rotunno, grilled Sciorra about whether she had called the police, gone to the hospital or immediately told anyone she had been raped. Sciorra replied that she had not, saying she did not realize what had happened was rape at the time.

Mann, a former aspiring actress who Weinstein is accused of raping in 2013, has yet to testify.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Tom Brown)

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