(NEW YORK) — One of two women that Harvey Weinstein is on trial for sexually assaulting took the witness stand on Monday to describe how the Hollywood producer violently sexually assaulted her and explain why she returned to him within a month and endured a second unwanted sexual encounter.
Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi is the second of six women expected to testify that the disgraced Hollywood mega-producer sexually assaulted them, following dramatic testimony last week from Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra.
Weinstein is charged with performing a forcible sex act on Haleyi in 2006 and with raping an unnamed accuser in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013. The rest are being called in support of prosecutors’ efforts to demonstrate a pattern of sexual predation. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has denied ever engaging in nonconsensual sex.
Haleyi, who testified that she recently began using the last name “Haley” to avoid being forever linked to this case, said she first met Weinstein in 2004 and approached him two years at the Cannes Film Festival looking for work in the industry, after her mentor, legendary London producer Michael White, had suffered a stroke and lost his business. He invited her to meet him at his company’s hotel suite. She said that Weinstein offered her a temp job on Project Runway, which The Weinstein Company then produced.
But then “it turned into him asking me if I did massages, and if I could give him a massage,” Haleyi testified. She offered to call down to the front desk for a masseuse. He offered to give her a massage, and, she said, “I basically left, shortly after, and I didn’t think anything would come out of that meeting.”
Haleyi worked as a Project Runway production assistant for several weeks, being paid in cash as her visa didn’t allow her to work in the U.S.
After shooting wrapped, she reached out to Weinstein to thank him for the opportunity and he invited her for a drink. They had a “very pleasant” meeting in June 2006 at the lobby of the Mercer Hotel, she testified, where he “was very respectful, even charming.” He offered to have her return to Project Runway the next season.
The next day, he gave her a ride home after a meeting and invited her to fly on a private jet with him to Paris the following week to attend a fashion show with him and stay at The Ritz. She declined but he wouldn’t take no for an answer, she said.
She testified that she had no intention of doing so, but in an effort to be “polite,” she said she’d let him know. Weinstein called her repeatedly and then showed up at her apartment for the second time that day, she said.
He “barged” into her apartment, she said, and again asked about Paris, despite her declining.
She said she told him, “‘You know, you have a terrible reputation with women, I’ve heard.’ He got offended by that. He stepped back and said, ‘What do you mean? What have you heard?'”
“He backed off after that,” she said.
Haleyi maintained contact with his office, trying to navigate a “professional-slash-social” relationship.
“I wasn’t interested in him sexually or romantically, but I wanted him to like me,” she testified.
Haleyi said she accepted an invitation from Weinstein to fly her out to California for the premiere of Clerks 2 in July 2006 as her friend was expecting a baby in Los Angeles.
On July 10, 2006, the day before she was scheduled to fly to L.A., she said Weinstein invited her to his Soho, New York, loft apartment and sent a car for her in the late afternoon. Her personal calendar, which was admitted into evidence, shows that day marked with a “P,” which she said signified was the day her period started.
A driver escorted her to his apartment, she said, and left. She and Weinstein talked, “having normal conversation,” and then he suddenly “lunged at me, trying to kiss me,” she claimed.
She claimed he backed her into a bedroom, where she fell onto a bed and he pushed her down. She said she told him “no,” that she didn’t “want this to happen,” and that she was on her period, all in attempts to “make him stop.”
After deciding no one would hear her scream and that she couldn’t sprint for the elevator or get out of the apartment in any way, she said, she “checked out.”
“That was the best thing I could do,” she said. That is when she claims he performed a forcible sex act on her.
When she got home, she testified, she told a roommate what happened but “decided that going to police was not an option for me” due to her off-the-books work on Project Runway.
“Obviously, Mr. Weinstein has a lot more power and resources and connections and so forth,” Haleyi said. “I didn’t think I would really stand a chance.”
The next day, she flew to Los Angeles as planned, but skipped the movie premiere, prompting angry calls from Weinstein, she testified.
When she returned from L.A. to New York City about two weeks later, she said Weinstein invited her to the Tribeca Grand Hotel for a drink and she agreed, saying he “was very persistent and insistent.”
“I was still trying to make sense of what had happened, why it had happened — and I felt very trapped in not being about to do anything about it,” Haleyi testified.
She said she felt like she was “trying to regain some sort of power,” until she walked in to meet him on July 26, 2006, wearing a battered pair of vintage shoes, with little money and no family in the U.S.
“I just felt like some sort of hobo,” she said.
On July 26, Haleyi testified, she arrived at the Tribeca Grand Hotel and was directed to Weinstein’s room, where she claims he took her hand and pulled her toward a bed.
“I just went numb,” she said, explaining that she realized Weinstein trapped her again. “I just felt like an idiot.”
In the courtroom, Haleyi trembled and wept with her head in her hands.
This time, she claimed, she didn’t tell anyone what happened, saying “it was deeply embarrassing” and that she blamed herself “that time.”
“The first incident was deeply embarrassing, but I didn’t blame myself,” she said, referring to when Weinstein allegedly forcibly performed oral sex on her at his Soho apartment.
Asked whether she blamed herself for the encounter at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, she said, “for that time? Yes, I did.”
In opening arguments, prosecutor Meghan Hast has described the July 26 encounter as a “rape,” but did not explain why Weinstein wasn’t charged for it in this case.
On cross examination, defense attorney Damon Cheronis — who has taken a more prominent role than expected in cross examining some of the female witnesses — focused Haleyi on the July 26, 2006 incident at the Tribeca Grand.
Cheronis sought to clarify the nature of the encounter and Haleyi acknowledged that she wasn’t “forced” to sleep with Weinstein.
“On the 26th of July you had sex with Harvey Weinstein, correct?” Cheronis asked.
“There was sex with Harvey Weinstein, yes,” she replied.
Shortly afterwards, Cheronis asked her, “He didn’t force you to have sex, did he?”
“I didn’t physically resist,” she replied.
“Do you remember testifying before the grand jury that [the sex] wasn’t forced?” Cheronis asked.
“Correct, because I didn’t resist,” Haleyi said.
Cheronis also challenged her recollection of being called a “bitch” and a “whore” by Weinstein, noting that she hadn’t recounted that aspect of the July 26 encounter in initial interviews with prosecutors or in front of a grand jury in early 2018.
“I think that is something I remembered later,” she said.
Cheronis suggested that she had fabricated that detail, and Haleyi grew visibly frustrated, at one point uttering, “He called me a bitch and a whore because he thought it would turn him on during sex.”
Cheronis continued to hammer on the point, eventually asking her if she fabricated the epithets.
“Mr. Weinstein never called you that, did he, ma’am?” Cheronis said moments later, challenging her.
“He did!” she insisted.
Cheronis also zeroed in on Haleyi’s ongoing interactions with Weinstein after July 2006.
Under cross-examination, Haleyi acknowledged that she had sought out Weinstein after that period, for matters including pitching a TV show idea to him, looking for work and seeking movie premiere tickets from him for the Cannes Film Festival.
Haleyi acknowledged that during a press conference she held in fall 2017 to announce her accusations, she did not disclose the July 26 sexual encounter or the subsequent contacts she initiated with Weinstein to pitch a TV show and seek work.
“What you told the world was what your lawyer referred to as ‘her truth,'” Cheronis said to her. “You did not tell the world in December 2017 the rest of the story, did you?”
“It wasn’t really relevant to the message that I was there to share,” she replied.
Haleyi later said under re-direct that “because I did not resist, I did not recognize that as an assault.”
If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault and is seeking resources, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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