Weinstein Defense Paints Rape Accuser as Manipulator

MANHATTAN (CN) — Interrogating a woman who says Harvey Weinstein raped her, a lawyer for the disgraced Hollywood producer pushed the aspiring actress Monday to name herself as the aggressor in the relationship.

The cross-examination of 34-year-old Jessica Mann picked up this morning with defense attorney Donna Rotunno, an avowed #MeToo skeptic, leading the charge.

Though Mann says Weinstein raped her at the Doubletree Hotel on March 18, 2013, she had conceded that there were other encounters with the married producer that were not forced.

A witness weeps as she testifies during the Harvey Weinstein trial on Friday in  New York. Jessica Mann testified that Weinstein trapped her in a New York hotel room, angrily ordered her to undress and raped her. She said she stayed in contact with him because “his ego was so fragile” and she wanted to be seen as naive. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

Rotunno pressed the witness to explain why.

“You made a choice to have sexual encounters with Harvey Weinstein when you weren’t sexually attracted to him,” Rotunno said Monday. “You liked the parties and you liked the power,” the lawyer added.

Mann testified that she maintained a correspondence of flattering and affectionate emails with Weinstein “to protect myself.”

“I engaged with my abuser,” Mann said Monday, “because of what I believed in my mind and the perception of the society I lived in. … It was always in my best interest to feel that the temperature gauge between us was going to be OK.”

“You manipulated Mr. Weinstein every single time, isn’t that correct?” Rotunno asked Monday.

“How I handled it to survive and process it, yeah, I guess you could say manipulation,” Mann responded after a long pause.

Mann described the unforced encounters as having happened only after “a long negotiation,” often framed as some type of “roleplay.”

“I wasn’t happy to do it,” Mann said.

Repeatedly Monday, Rotunno prompted Mann: “Every time you engaged in consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Weinstein, you manipulated him.”

Until Weinstein’s trial began on Jan. 7 in New York Supreme Court, Mann had previously remained unnamed in the criminal indictment.

Taking the stand for the first time last week, Mann testified that, before Weinstein raped her at the Doubletree Hotel on March 18, 2013, he had grabbed her in a Los Angeles hotel room and performed forced oral sex on her against her objections.

These earlier encounters had left Mann “horrified” and “confused,” she said, but she made a deliberate decision to carry on some type of relationship with Weinstein.

On direct examination, Mann repeatedly told prosecutors that she did not have any romantic or sexual interest in Weinstein but assessed at the time that the relationship was comprised of “just oral sex.” She testified that she had avoided having sexual intercourse him until she was raped.

The rape at the DoubleTree was followed eight months later by a second attack, she said, at the Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles. Mann had been working there as a hairstylist, and she said she pleaded with Weinstein to not to remove her clothes.

“I don’t have time for games,” she said Weinstein responded as he ripped off her pants before pushing her legs apart to rape her.

“You owe me one more time!”

Mann also testified that she had been dating an actor at the time. Though Weinstein had forbidden her from dating anyone else in the movie industry, she said she was mostly free to see other people.

On Friday, Rotunno forced Mann to read on the stand the entirety of an unpublished blog post that she said was based on a Weinstein’s attempt to coerce her into having three-way sex with him and another actress, an even that allegedly left Mann in tears on the floor of a hotel bathroom.

Rotunno framed the actual threesome encounter as consensual, but Assistant District Attorney said the draft blog post was a satirical rendering of a traumatic event that was painful for Mann.

Mann strained at times to recall certain details during her cross-examination and at one point Monday requested break: “I’m getting a little foggy,: she told the court.

Acknowledging these lapses on the stand Friday, Mann explained that she had not slept in two weeks.

Weinstein’s defense condemned Mann for not being able to put together a full timeline of her relationship with Weinstein and accused her and the prosecution of omitting material evidence.

Multiple times throughout the trial’s first month, Weinstein’s defense attorneys have sought a mistrial on the grounds that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office withheld potentially exculpatory evidence.

Invoking purported Brady violations by the prosecution, Weinstein’s attorney Damon Cheronis said Monday that the defense attorneys had been “caught by surprise and were sandbagged.”

The landmark 1963 U.S Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland says prosecutors must disclose to defense attorneys any evidence that is favorable to defendants or that would change the outcome of a case.

Weinstein, 67, faces a life sentence if convicted of the felony charges, including two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree, rape in the first degree, and rape in the third degree.

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