Editor’s note: This story includes graphic language of a sexual nature.
Harvey Weinstein invoked the actresses Charlize Theron and Salma Hayek to pressure an aspiring actress into having three-way sex with him, the woman testified Wednesday at his rape trial.
Dawn Dunning said under oath that Weinstein asked her in 2004 for a threesome in a hotel room. When she laughed, he got angry and said that was how Theron and Hayek had succeeded, she testified.
“This is how this industry works,” he told her, according to her testimony.
In addition, Dunning testified through tears that Weinstein put his hand up her skirt in an earlier incident that year as his employees sat in an adjoining room at a hotel.
Dunning is one of two women expected to testify Wednesday about unwanted sexual encounters with Weinstein more than 15 years ago as they sought to further their acting careers.
Theron has said that Weinstein lied about sleeping with her in an attempt to manipulate other women. Hayek has said that she repeatedly rebuffed Weinstein’s harassment and that he raged at her on the set “Frida.” The New York Times has reported that Weinstein falsely claimed he had sex with Gwyneth Paltrow and other actresses as he allegedly attempted to coerce women into having sex with him.
CNN reached out Wednesday to representatives for Theron and Hayek.
Through a spokeswoman, Weinstein previously has denied any instances of “non-consensual” sex or “acts of retaliation.”
Another trial witness, Tarale Wulff, is expected to take the stand later Wednesday. She is due to testify that she went to Weinstein’s apartment in 2005 for what she believed would be a professional meeting but then, despite her protestations, Weinstein had sex with her, Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast said in opening statements.
Dunning and Wulff, along with Lauren Young, are considered “prior bad acts” witnesses, which means their testimony is not connected to any specific charges. Prosecutors instead argue that their testimony will show that Weinstein had a consistent pattern of sexual abuse and that he “knew he was preying on the naive and inexperienced,” Hast said last week.
In general, “prior bad acts” witnesses aim to strengthen the prosecution’s case, particularly in a “he said-she said” sexual assault trial with limited physical evidence. In Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial, for example, five women testified as “prior bad acts” witnesses.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to five charges, including two counts of predatory sexual assault, which can be punished by up to life in prison.
The charges are based on testimony from three women who say he sexually attacked them. So far in the trial, actress Annabella Sciorra said that Weinstein raped her in the winter of 1993-1994, and former production assistant Miriam Haley testified that he pinned her down and forced her into a sex act in 2006. Also due to testify to an alleged attack is Jessica Mann.
Weinstein’s attorneys have attacked the credibility of the women and pointed to inconsistencies and unclear details in their stories. Attorney Damon Cheronis has also pointed out that some of the women continued to have contact with Weinstein after these alleged incidents, which he has argued shows that the episodes were consensual.
Dunning says Weinstein asked for a threesome
Dunning, who spoke to The New York Times in October 2017, testified that Weinstein groped her in 2004 and, in the other incident, tried to pressure her into having three-way sex with him by naming the prominent actresses.
Dunning said she first met Weinstein in 2004 at a New York City nightclub, where she worked as a bottle service waitress while trying to start her acting career. He told her he’d try to help with her career, she testified, and they met with his assistant on several occasions to talk about potential opportunities.
In a hotel suite with his employees in a nearby sitting area, Weinstein sat next to Dunning on the hotel bed and put his hand up her skirt, she testified.He then put his hand underneath her underwear and partially penetrated her vagina, she said as she teared up and her voice quivered.
She froze for a minute because she was caught off guard, she testified. When she jumped up from the bed, Weinstein began speaking very fast, telling her it wouldn’t happen again and told her, “Don’t make a big deal about this,” she said.
Dunning said she left shortly after the incident and never told anyone about it because it was “embarrassing.”
“I wanted to pretend like it didn’t happen,” Dunning said.
Weeks later, an assistant invited Dunning to meet with Weinstein at a cigar bar in the InterContinental Hotel, she said. When she arrived, the assistant told her to go up to his hotel room to discuss acting contracts, she testified.
Weinstein opened the hotel room door in nothing but a bathrobe, Dunning testified. He then gestured at three stacks of papers on a coffee table and told her that if she had a threesome with him and his assistant, he would sign those contracts for her to perform in his next three films.
Dunning said she laughed because she thought he was kidding, which made him angry.
“He started screaming at me. He said, ‘You’ll never make it in this business,’ ” she testified. “‘This is how this industry works.'”
Weinstein named Theron and Hayek and said that was how they got to where they were in their careers, Dunning testified.
Dunning said she ran out of the room and never spoke to Weinstein again. She went home and told her fiancé and several other people about the altercation, and she stopped pursuing an acting career, she testified. The female assistant called her to speak with Weinstein in the days after the incident, but she hung up and didn’t take his call.
On cross-examination, Weinstein’s defense attorney asked questions that highlighted that Weinstein didn’t touch Dunning or try to stop her from leaving the InterContinental Hotel room that day.
Attorney Arthur Aidala also spoke at length to stress that from 2017, went Dunning first spoke to The New York Times, to 2019, she did not say anything about the first interaction with Weinstein, during which he allegedly sexually assaulted her.
Aidala spent considerable time asking about Dunning’s interview with Don Lemon on CNN, suggesting inconsistencies in her story.
Wulff to testify later on Wednesday
Wulff, an aspiring actress from Long Island, met Weinstein in 2005 while working as a cocktail waitress at Cipriani Upstairs in Manhattan.
She served the owner’s table in the club, which Weinstein frequented as a friend of the owner. Wulff alleges Weinstein pulled her by the arm into the hall and up onto a private roof terrace as her manager closed the door despite her expressing distress to him. Weinstein then masturbated in front of her until she ran away and switched tables with another waitress for the rest of the night, Hast said.
Still, hoping for a big break, Wulff set up a meeting with Weinstein and later was taken by car to his apartment, Hast said.
She believed the meeting would be professional, but in his apartment, he grabbed her and put her on the bed. She protested, told him no and froze physically, “trying mentally to escape the horror” as he had sex with her, Hast said.
Wulff never spoke to him after the alleged assault, Hast said, and never told anyone about it.
“She simply did what she learned to do as a child,” Hast said. “She tried to forget and move on, put on a brave face and pretend that nothing happened.”