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And a former aspiring actress took the stand yesterday in the sex crimes trial of Harvey Weinstein. The movie mogul is charged with five counts of rape and assault against two women in New York. For five hours, one of those women, Jessica Mann, told graphic and harrowing stories. NPR's Rose Friedman was in the courtroom. And a warning - this report contains disturbing details.
ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: Jessica Mann grew up as an evangelical Christian in what she called a cult in Washington state and told the jury she moved to Los Angeles when she was 25. She said she met Weinstein a few years later at a Hollywood party, where he pulled her aside and asked for contact information, telling her he was interested in her as an actress. Mann said Weinstein began contacting her. He bought her books on film history and told her he had a movie he wanted to cast her in.
Then, around the end of 2012, he invited her and a friend to drinks at a hotel bar in LA and then moved the group upstairs to a hotel room, where he forced oral sex on her while her friend waited in the next room. That began a series of what she said were unwanted sexual encounters, as well as what Mann says was a lengthy, sometimes consensual but often degrading relationship. Mann also went on to describe deformities related to Weinstein's body that are too graphic to describe here. But she cried as she said they moved her to compassion for him.
Many of the incidents she described took place in Los Angeles. But in 2013, Mann and Weinstein met up at a DoubleTree hotel in New York, where she was staying with friends. Mann says she had set up a breakfast meeting with Weinstein and her friends. But she says he showed up early, checking into the hotel and became angry when she asked why he was getting a room. She described his demeanor in that moment as like a drill sergeant. She says he brought her to the room he'd just booked, where he raped her. It's that rape that Weinstein is charged with in New York. Mann says she was deeply embarrassed by the episode and hid what had happened from the friend she was staying with.
Weinstein's defense team had only begun their cross-examination when the day ended. His attorney Donna Rotunno began by accusing Mann of manipulating Weinstein, using him for his power in the film industry. Rotunno noted that Weinstein got Mann invited to parties, premieres and other entertainment industry events.
Jessica Mann described complicated feelings about the relationship, being alternately charmed and afraid. Weinstein and his team say that all of his sexual encounters were consensual.
Rose Friedman, NPR News, New York.
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