Harvey Weinstein accuser has panic attack during cross-examination

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 3: Jessica Mann (C) exits the Manhattan criminal court after testifying against film producer Harvey Weinstein for his sexual assault trial at Manhattan criminal court on February 3, 2020 in New York City. Weinstein, a movie producer whose alleged sexual misconduct helped spark the #MeToo movement, pleaded not-guilty on five counts of rape and sexual assault against two unnamed women and faces a possible life sentence in prison. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

A woman who testified in court that Harvey Weinstein raped her had a panic attack on the witness stand and abruptly ended her testimony during cross-examination Monday.

Jessica Mann testified Friday that Weinstein, the powerful movie producer, forced her to do sex acts and raped her twice over the course of what she described as an abusive relationship, Mann testified.

She faced challenging questioning from his attorneys Monday about who had been manipulating whom in their relationship. Monday afternoon, Mann burst into heavy sobs reading a letter she penned to a former boyfriend in May 2014. The letter explained her feelings and dynamic with Weinstein, in which she wrote, “I tried to make him a pseudo father.”

Mann returned to the witness stand after a brief break but could not compose herself. The attorneys tried to calm her down in open court, but Mann said she was having a panic attack and left the courtroom gasping for air. Holding a stress ball, she stumbled on her way out and grabbed the wall for support.

Mann, in a side room, then could be heard from the courtroom wailing and screaming. She was not able to finish reading the letter, and court was adjourned for the day. She is expected to retake the stand Tuesday morning.

The incident ended what had been a tough cross-examination for Mann, who testified for more than four hours Monday. She has said that Weinstein raped her after a period in which he befriended her, gave her a film script and invited her to parties for events such as the Oscars.

But during cross-examination, Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno repeatedly asked Mann to acknowledge that she had manipulated Weinstein every time she interacted with him, making him believe she was interested in him when she wasn’t.

“That’s your version,” Mann responded.

Rotunno read aloud Mann’s emails and messages to Weinstein that appeared to show affection for him and continued after he allegedly raped and attacked her in March 2013.

“I appreciate all you do for me, it shows,” she wrote in April 2013 after Weinstein asked his employees to book her for a reading for a role in a vampire movie.

“I love you, I always do. but I hate feeling like a booty call. :)” Mann wrote in a message in February 2017.

Mann said that she did and said certain things to Weinstein to protect herself and her budding acting career. “I guess you can say manipulation,” she said.

Mann’s testimony and the cross-examination highlight the thorny questions around consent and unequal power dynamics in the criminal trial. Weinstein is charged with five counts, including rape and predatory sexual assault.

Prosecutors have said Weinstein raped and sexually assaulted young women, including Mann, over the course of decades, and that he used his power atop the movie industry to prey on and manipulate young women who hoped to further their careers.

But Weinstein’s attorneys have said the sexual incidents were consensual and have rejected prosecutors’ stark predator versus prey dynamic.

“This is not about a young individual who was tricked by a master manipulator,” Weinstein attorney Damon Cheronis said in opening statements about Mann. “You will see, get ready for it, an actual loving relationship in hundreds of emails and communications between Harvey Weinstein and Jessica Mann.”

“Can we envision a situation where somebody like Harvey Weinstein who does have power, people want things from him, people want to get movie roles from him, people want production jobs, people want to be sponsored at Soho,” Cheronis added.

Mann met with Weinstein after alleged rape

Mann testified Friday that Weinstein first raped her in March 2013 at a DoubleTree hotel in New York where he was supposed to meet her and her friends for breakfast.

She described a harrowing scene in her testimony. Inside a hotel room, she tried to run out, but he slammed the door twice as she grabbed the handle, she testified. She then followed his orders to undress, and he laid on top of her and raped her, she said.

Monday, during cross-examination, Mann acknowledged that she met Weinstein voluntarily twice in New York in the hours and days after that incident.

Rotunno asked a lengthy series of questions about Mann’s decision to change her flight in order to see Weinstein those two times, including the day after the alleged attack, which was Weinstein’s birthday. Mann also acknowledged that she asked the Weinstein Company to arrange transportation to the airport in New York and to her home once she was back in Los Angeles from that trip.

Defense attorneys have highlighted these interactions as they try to argue that the interactions were consensual.

To combat that point, prosecutors earlier in the trial called to the stand a forensic psychiatrist who testified that it was a “rape myth” that victims of sexual violence behave a certain way.

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