Following up on actress Annabella Sciorra's emotional testimony on Thursday, former Project Runway production assistant Mimi Haleyi took the witness stand on Monday to accuse disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexually assaulting her in 2006.
During a vivid recount of her experience with Weinstein, Haleyi detailed being alone in his Manhattan loft before he lunged toward her on the couch. According to her, Weinstein pulled her into his bedroom where she attempted to escape his advances by saying she was on her period before he proceeded to forcibly perform oral sex on her. "I was in so much shock at the time that I completely checked out," Haleyi told the jury, just after declaring that she later knew she was being "raped."
During a 2017 news conference given alongside her lawyer, famed women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, Haleyi said that she was first introduced to Weinstein at the European premiere of the movie "The Aviator" in 2004, and was also later hired to work on a TV show he produced in New York City. After rebuffing what she described as numerous sexual advances by the influential producer, Haleyi said that she finally agreed to meet Weinstein at his SoHo, Manhattan apartment in 2006, where he forcibly performed oral sex on her.
“I told him, 'No, no, no,' but he insisted. He was extremely persistent and physically overpowering. He then orally forced himself on me," Haleyi said at the time.
Notably, Weinstein’s defence team has tried to call Haleyi’s testimony into question by pointing to a text message she reportedly sent to Weinstein in 2007, months after the alleged assault took place. "Hi! Just wondering if u have any news on whether harvey will have time to see me before he leaves? x Miriam," the note reads.
Haleyi's testimony also comes ahead of the release of The Assistant, a new movie about a production assistant who goes on to work for a big-name producer and ends up dealing with a culture of sexual silence. Weinstein and his former production company are never named in the film, though the similarities between his conduct and what is detailed on screen leaves little to be read between the lines.
Although Weinstein has been the subject of allegations of rape, assault and sexual misconduct made by at least 100 women since the #MeToo movement sprang forth in the fall of 2016, he is only standing trial in New York for five charges stemming from incidents involving just two women. In addition to Sciorra and Haleyi’s testimony, prosecutors have invoked what’s known as the Molineaux Rule to allow the introduction of evidence of prior and uncharged crimes into the trial, which will come in the form of testimony by four unnamed victims without connections to the pending charges.
The defence strategy for Weinstein’s team has repeatedly relied on the existence of so-called “friendly emails” and other exchanges between the disgraced executive and his victims as evidence that nothing improper took place. But in response to a Nightline interview Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, gave in February in which she suggested that the blame at least partially rested with the accusers, 21 of the women who previously accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct released a statement sharply condemning the victim-shaming rhetoric.
“We believe the evidence against Harvey presented in the trial next month will be a moment of reckoning and he will be held accountable for his crimes,” the statement read in part. “We continue to stand together to support those who have been victimised, and empower others to speak their truth.”
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the Rape Crisis National Hotline at 0808 802 9999.