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Harvey Weinstein fumed "this is how the industry works," accuser testifies

Dramatic start to Harvey Weinstein trial

A woman who described herself as an aspiring actress and a big fan of Harvey Weinstein's films told jurors Wednesday that she jumped at his invitation to screen-test for movie roles. At a subsequent meeting in a New York City hotel suite, Dawn Dunning testified, Weinstein led her to a bedroom, put his hand up her skirt and fondled her genitals.

"I stood up. I was in shock," 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, Dunning responded: "No, if anything I'm losing. This is the worst and hardest thing I've ever done."

Dunning, now 40, is one of several women whom prosecutors are calling to the witness stand to testify about allegations against 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.

Dawn Dunning is questioned by Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast during film producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault trial at New York Criminal Court
Dawn Dunning is questioned by Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast during film producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault trial at New York Criminal Court in Manhattan on January 29, 2020 in this courtroom sketch. JANE ROSENBERG / REUTERS

Tarale Wulff, an aspiring actress who met Weinstein in 2005 while working as a cocktail server at one of his favorite Manhattan haunts, testified later Wednesday. She alleges he once cornered her in a hallway and started masturbating and on another occasion pushed her onto a bed and raped her.

Wulff and Dunning described a powerful Hollywood figure they say preyed on their vulnerabilities while pushing the notion that sex could lead to film roles.

Manhattan prosecutors are having Dunning, 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, a "Project Runway" production assistant in 2006, and in 2013 raping another aspiring actress, who could testify later this week. Jurors on Monday heard a tearful Haleyi recall how she tried to fight off Weinstein before he sexually assaulted her. On Tuesday, Haleyi's former roommate, Elizabeth Entin, took the stand to corroborate the testimony.  

Weinstein has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual, and Weinstein's lawyers zeroed in on his accusers' continued contact with him after the alleged assaults.

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."

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 neighborhood where Weinstein was using a suite as a temporary office. At one point, 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 testified. "There was no red flags or alerts that would make me expect it to happen."

Dunning said she "just kind of gave him the benefit of the doubt" when Weinstein said it would never happen again. She said she didn't scream or yell and didn't tell anyone because she was embarrassed and didn't want to be a victim.

Dunning said that she later agreed to meet Weinstein at a hotel cigar bar, but that 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," Dunning said. "He got really angry; he started screaming, 'You'll never make in this business. This is how the industry works.'"

Sexual Misconduct Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein arrives at court for his trial on charges of rape and sexual assault, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020 in New York. Richard Drew / AP

Duning said Weinstein was close enough to her that she felt it was threatening. She said she left.

"He was a big guy; he was towering over me. I was really scared," Dunning testified.

She didn't call police, she said, because she didn't know whether what he did was a crime.

Under cross examination, Weinstein attorney Arthur Aidala asked whether Weinstein "laid a hand" on her during the incident, to which Dunning replied no. Dunning said Weinstein didn't try to stop her when she left, and said neither Weinstein nor his assistant tried to chase after her. 

"I am not saying he was in the hallway. I'm just saying he was screaming while I was leaving," Dunning said.

Aidala later grilled Dunning on the timing  of interviews she gave to various news outlets. Dunning teared up when Aidala asked whether she was willing to meet with Weinstein after the alleged assault. 

"Correct," Dunning said.

Wulff then took the stand, saying she met Weinstein while working as a cocktail waitress at a members-only club on Broadway in 2005. She said she told Weinstein she was an aspiring actress, though she had never performed before. Weinstein told her she had a "good look" and to come talk to him later, she said.

When Weinstein later led her to the terrace area, Wulff said she thought Weinstein was going to "talk to me in the hallway about talking to his people." But then Wulff said she noticed his shirt moving. 

"I realized he was masturbating," she said, adding that she froze and scooted around Weinstein to go back to the bar.

She said she asked another server to take over Weinstein's table, but didn't report the incident because "I didn't want to start a problem."

Later that year, Wulff said she went to the Weinstein Company's Manhattan offices for what she thought was going to be an audition. She said she waited in the offices before a woman told her, "Harvey wants to see you" and that a car was waiting outside. The car brought her to an apartment where Weinstein was waiting, she said.

Choking back tears, Wulff told jurors there was nothing she could do to stop the much larger Weinstein once he grabbed her by the arm and pushed her onto the bed. When she told Weinstein, "I can't," he told her not to worry because he had a vasectomy, then raped her,  Wulff said.

Wulff, now 43 and a model, said she froze.

"Going blank is easier for me, just get through it, get past it and just block," she said.

She described seeing Weinstein about 8 to 10 weeks later at a fashion show, saying she felt "just as scared and small as the last time I saw him." 

Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno pressed Wulff on her memory of details such as how many times she had met with the district attorney and her therapist. Wulff said "I don't remember" or "I don't recall" dozens of times.

On Thursday, prosecutors are expected to call witnesses to corroborate the accounts of Dunning and Wulff.

-- Reporting by The Associated Press and CBS News' Cassandra Gauthier and Shawn Matthews

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