“I stood up. I was in shock,” Dunning said, fighting back tears as she recounted the 2004 encounter, when she was 24.
“He just started talking really fast. He said, ‘Don’t make a big deal about this. It will never happen again.”‘
Asked by prosecutor Meghan Hast whether she was gaining anything by testifying at Weinstein‘s rape trial, Dunning responded: “No, if anything I’m losing. This is the worst and hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Dunning, now 40, is one of several women whom prosecutors are calling to the witness stand to testify about experiences with Weinstein that, while not part of the underlying criminal charges, could be a big factor in whether he goes to prison at the end of the landmark #MeToo-era trial.
Tarale Wulff, an aspiring actress who met Weinstein in 2005 while working as a cocktail server at one of his favourite Manhattan haunts, is expected to testify later Wednesday. She alleges he once cornered her in a hallway and started masturbating and on another occasion pushed her onto a bed and raped her.
Manhattan prosecutors are having Dunning, Wulff and a third woman testify as part of their effort to portray Weinstein as a serial offender. State law allows such testimony about so-called prior bad acts to explore things like motive, opportunity, intent and a common scheme or plan.
A tearful Mimi Haleyi, a former Project Runway production assistant, testified this week how she tried to fight off Weinstein before he sexually assaulted her in 2006. On Tuesday, Haleyi’s former roommate, Elizabeth Entin, took the stand to corroborate the testimony.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault, unless they agree to be named or have gone public with their stories, as Haleyi, Wulff, Dunning and Sciorra have done.
Offers of screen test, movie roles
Weinstein immediately appeared to take an interest in her fledgling acting career, she said, and invited her to a lunch meeting where, noting his infamous temper, she said he was “on the phone a lot yelling at people.”
Several meetings followed, she said, including one at a boutique hotel in Manhattan‘s SoHo neighborhood where Weinstein was using a suite as a temporary office. At one point, Dunning testified, Weinstein led her into a bedroom and they sat down on the bed.
“I was wearing a skirt that day and he put his hand up my skirt,” she testified. “There [were] no red flags or alerts that would make me expect it to happen.”
Dunning said she “just kind of gave him the benefit of the doubt” when Weinstein said it would never happen again. She said she didn’t scream or yell and didn’t tell anyone because she was embarrassed and didn’t want to be a victim.
Dunning said that she later agreed to meet Weinstein at a cigar bar, but that an assistant took her to a suite where the Pulp Fiction producer was standing in a bathrobe. There, she said, Weinstein showed her a contract for three movie roles she would get on the condition she had “a threesome with his assistant.”
“When he said that I laughed. I thought he was kidding,” Dunning said. “He got really angry; he started screaming, ‘You’ll never make it in this business. This is how the industry works.'”
“He was a big guy; he was towering over me. I was really scared,” Dunning testified.
Dunning first told the The New York Times about the alleged jobs-for-sex proposals in October 2017, but said she didn’t disclose the alleged fondling incident to prosecutors until last summer.
She said that during the tirade, Weinstein mentioned the actresses Salma Hayek and Charlize Theron, as if to persuade her that complying would be good for her career.