Actress Rosie Perez testified on Friday that fellow screen star Annabella Sciorra told her in the mid-1990s that Harvey Weinstein had raped her but that she could not go to the police because “he’d destroy me”.
Taking the stand at the former Hollywood mogul’s trial, Ms Perez said her friend Ms Sciorra had told at some point in 1993, her voice shaking on the phone, that something had happened to her: “I think it was rape.”
Ms Perez said she asked if Ms Sciorra knew who had attacked her, but Ms Sciorra would not say at the time.
But months later, on another phone call from London, she named Weinstein, Ms Perez said.
“Please go to the police,” Ms Perez said she told her friend. She said Ms Sciorra responded: “I can’t — he’d destroy me.”
On Thursday, Ms Sciorra told jurors that the then-powerful movie producer pushed his way into her New York apartment, pinned her on a bed and forced himself on her in 1993 or 1994.
She said Ms Perez was one of a few people she told about the encounter before coming forward publicly in 2017.
Weinstein denies ever having nonconsensual sex. His lawyers said Ms Perez should not be allowed to testify, but Judge James Burke decided to allow it.
Defence lawyer Damon Cheronis pressed Ms Perez on why she did not go to police, or to Ms Sciorra’s home, when the actress first told her about the alleged assault.
“Because I was being respectful,” Ms Perez said.
Weinstein, the studio boss whose downfall energised the #MeToo movement, is charged with forcibly performing oral sex on a production assistant in his apartment in 2006 and raping an aspiring actress in a New York hotel room in 2013.
Ms Sciorra is among four additional accusers who are expected to testify against him.
The 67-year-old producer of such Oscar-winning movies as Chicago and The King’s Speech could get life in prison if convicted.
Ms Sciorra, 59, is best known for her work on The Sopranos.
Ms Perez, 55, was in 1989’s Do The Right Thing and 1993’s Fearless, which brought her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.
Weinstein’s lawyers seized on Ms Sciorra’s actions after the alleged assault, asking such questions as why Ms Sciorra made the 1997 Weinstein-produced film Cop Land if he had raped her a few years earlier.
Ms Sciorra said she was not aware of Weinstein’s involvement until she had agreed to appear in the film.
The defence has also questioned why Weinstein’s accusers stayed in friendly contact for years with a man they say had assaulted them.
Prosecutors sought to give jurors some answers on Friday by calling to the stand a forensic psychiatrist who testified about the same topic at the Pennsylvania trial that led to Bill Cosby’s 2018 conviction on charges of sexually assaulting a woman.
Dr Barbara Ziv told Weinstein’s jury of seven men and five women that most sex-assault victims continue to have contact with their attackers, who often threaten retaliation if the victims tell anyone what happened.
Victims are “hoping that this is just an aberration,” she said, and they tell themselves: “‘I can put it in a box and forget about it. I don’t want it to get worse. I can handle this physical trauma, but God forbid this ruins the rest of my life’.”
Victims can end up blaming themselves “without knowing that their behaviour is entirely expected,” said Ms Ziv, who has described herself as an expert on “sexual assault victim behaviour” who has evaluated more than 1,000 such people.
She did not, however, evaluate any of Weinstein’s accusers, a point his lawyers seized on.