By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A woman who says Harvey Weinstein raped her broke down in sobs at the former Hollywood producer’s sexual assault trial on Monday, as she read an email in which she described Weinstein as a “pseudo father” figure after the alleged attack.
Jessica Mann, 34, began weeping uncontrollably as she read the May 2014 email aloud under cross-examination by one of Weinstein’s lawyers, Donna Rotunno. She was still crying after a brief break, prompting Justice James Burke to end testimony for the day.
Mann had testified Friday that Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel room in March 2013, early in what she described as an “extremely degrading” relationship with him. She said the relationship continued in some form for years after that.
The 67-year-old former producer has pleaded not guilty to raping Mann and to sexually assaulting another woman, Mimi Haleyi. He faces life in prison if found guilty of predatory sexual assault, the most serious charge.
Mann wrote in the email to an actor she had been dating at the time that she was working through “father issues” when she was with Weinstein.
“Harvey was my father’s age and he gave me all the validation I needed,” she wrote.
Mann is expected to be cross-examined further on Tuesday.
Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Weinstein, whose films included “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has denied the allegations and has said any sexual encounters were consensual.
The trial is widely seen as a milestone in the #MeToo movement, in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media, and politics of sexual misconduct.
Earlier in Mann’s cross-examination, Rotunno repeatedly suggested that Mann willingly had sex with Weinstein to advance her career. At one point she asked whether Mann “manipulated” Weinstein when she sent him friendly messages and asked to see him, even though she was not attracted to him.
“How I handled it to survive and process it, yeah, I guess you could say manipulation,” Mann answered.
Rotunno also questioned Mann about the day of the alleged rape, quoting testimony she gave on Friday in which she said her “worst nightmare” would be for her friend and her agent to see her coming out of a hotel room with Weinstein.
“Your worst nightmare, Jessica, in your words, was not the fact that you had just been taken against your will in a hotel,” Rotunno said. “Your words.”
“Abuse is embarrassing, so yeah,” Mann said.
Rotunno went on to show Mann friendly emails she sent Weinstein after the alleged rape, including one in which she gave him her new contact information and said she would be “happy to see your smile.”
Mann said she sent Weinstein flattering messages to avoid making him angry and show she was “not a threat.”
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson; writing by Tom Hals; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Rosalba O’Brien)