“Do the Right Thing” actress Rosie Perez testified in a crowded New York courtroom Friday that her friend and fellow performer Annabella Sciorra confided in her in the 1990s that she had been raped by producer Harvey Weinstein.
Perez, who took the stand over the objections of Weinstein’s lawyers, told jurors she called Sciorra sometime in 1993 to set up plans to hang out. Sciorra, according to Perez, broke down crying on the phone.
“She said something bad happened and she said, ‘I think I was raped,’ and her voice started shaking,” Perez testified, adding: “She started crying.”
Perez, 55, told the court that she asked if Sciorra knew who had violently assaulted her in her Manhattan apartment, but Sciorra did not say. But in a phone conversation several months later, Sciorra told Perez that she had been raped by Weinstein, an influential figure in Hollywood.
“Please go to the police,” Perez said she told Sciorra.
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“I can’t,” Sciorra replied, according to Perez. “He’d destroy me.”
In wrenching testimony Thursday, Sciorra said that sometime in 1993 or 1994, Weinstein pushed his way into her Manhattan apartment, restrained her on a bed and forced himself on her. She told jurors that she tried to fight back, punching and kicking him, but “he took my hands and put them over my head.”
Sciorra, best known for her performances in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever” and HBO’s “The Sopranos,” said Perez was one of the few people she told about the alleged assault before she went public with her claims in an interview with the journalist Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker in 2017.
Weinstein, who has pleaded not guilty in the New York trial, denies any allegations of nonconsensual sex. The ex-producer’s lawyers, who have insisted their client’s sexual encounters were consensual, argued that Perez should be blocked from testifying. But the judge, James Burke, overruled them.
Weinstein, 67, faces charges he raped a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on another woman in 2006. He also faces a sex crime case in Los Angeles, where he is charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents on two consecutive days in 2013.
In all, more than 80 women have accused the Oscar-winning producer behind “Pulp Fiction” of sexual harassment and assault going back decades.
Sciorra, whose allegations were ruled too old to support criminal charges, is among a group of accusers who are expected to testify during the trial as part of the prosecution’s strategy to demonstrate that Weinstein was a serial sexual abuser who harassed and assaulted many women.
If he is convicted in the case, he could be sentenced to life behind bars.
In questions during cross-examination Thursday, Weinstein defense attorney Donna Rotunno attempted to poke holes in Sciorra’s testimony, pointing out her inability to remember when the alleged rape took place or whom she had been out to dinner with earlier that night.
Weinstein’s lawyers also asked why Sciorra appeared in “Cop Land,” a 1997 crime thriller distributed by his defunct company Miramax, if he had raped her earlier in the decade. Sciorra testified that she was not aware of Weinstein’s involvement in the project until she was on board.