A woman who described herself as an aspiring actress and big fan of Harvey Weinstein’s films has told jurors she jumped at his invitation to screen-test for movie roles.
At a subsequent meeting in a New York City hotel suite, Dawn Dunning said Weinstein led her to a bedroom, put his hand up her skirt and fondled her genitals.
“I stood up, I was in shock,” Ms Dunning said, fighting back tears as she recounted the 2004 encounter.
“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, Ms Dunning responded: “No, if anything I’m losing. This is the worst and hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Ms Dunning, now 40, is one of several women who 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 favorite Manhattan haunts, is expected to testify later on Wednesday.
She alleges he once cornered her in a hallway and started masturbating and on another occasion pushed her on to a bed and raped her.
Manhattan prosecutors are having Ms Dunning, Ms 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.
Jurors have already heard from actress Annabella Sciorra, who testified that Weinstein overpowered and raped her after barging into her apartment in the mid-1990s.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with forcing oral sex on Mimi Haleyi in 2006, at the time a Project Runway production assistant, and in 2013 raping another aspiring actress, who could testify later this week.
He has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual and Weinstein’s lawyers have zeroed in on his accusers’ continued contact with him after the alleged assaults.
Ms Dunning said she met Weinstein while waiting tables at a Manhattan nightclub where bottle service was a trend for the rich and famous.
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.”
Ms Dunning, who first told her story to The New York Times in October 2017, said Weinstein also offered her a screen test at his film studio offices and even arranged to get Broadway tickets for her and her boyfriend.
Several meetings followed, she said, including one at a boutique hotel in Manhattan’s SoHo neighbourhood where Weinstein was using a suite as a temporary office.
He was a big guy, he was towering over meDawn Dunning
At one point, Ms 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 said.
“There was no red flags or alerts that would make me expect it to happen.”
Ms Dunning said she “just kind of gave him the benefit of the doubt” when Weinstein said it would never happen again.
She said she did not scream or yell and didn ot tell anyone because she was embarrassed and did not want to be a victim.
Ms Dunning said she later agreed to meet Weinstein at a cigar bar but 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,” Ms 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.
Ms Dunning said she did not call police because she did not know whether what he did was a crime.