NEW YORK – After a week of emotional, often graphic testimony in the Harvey Weinstein sex crimes trial, the jury heard Wednesday from a former aspiring actress who described being sexually assaulted by Weinstein in the mid-2000s.
Dawn Dunning, who met Weinstein at a nightclub where she worked, said she met with him over several months in 2004 about possible roles in his movies and doing a screen test.
“He would make comments about my looks and my body, but it wasn’t anything worse than what I’d heard in nightclubs,” Dunning said. “I never thought it was unsafe.”
She met him in a hotel in Soho where he was working on a project in a suite packed with people working. She sensed no danger, no red flags, she said.
“I was talking with Harvey and he kind of led me into the other room, and I sat next to him on the bed, and I was wearing a skirt that day and he put his hand up my skirt,” Dunning said, starting to cry as she described Weinstein touching her.
“I stood up. I was shocked. I wasn’t expecting that to happen,” she said. “He started talking really fast, he was like, don’t make a big deal out of this, he said it wouldn’t happen again.”
She said she left shortly after. “I was just trying to rationalize it in my head,” she said, her voice breaking again. “I just gave him the benefit of the doubt that it wouldn’t happen again. I didn’t yell at him or scream or anything.”
She said she didn’t tell anyone. “I was embarrassed. I wanted to pretend like it didn’t happen. I didn’t want to be a victim. …(Before), I was trying to get work from him, so it was a work relationship. It was a really big deal for me.”
A few weeks later, she said she met with him again at a hotel near Park Avenue, where his assistant took her up to his room. He was wearing a bathrobe and quickly “cut to the chase,” Dunning said. With the assistant in the room, he showed her contracts for three films and said they were hers if she agreed to a threesome.
“I thought he was kidding. He had kind of a crass sense of humor,” she said. “When I started to leave, he started screaming at me and said, ‘You’ll never make it in this business!’ “
Dunning said he was yelling at her, towering over her, and she was scared.
“I just remember looking at (his assistant) and she was blank,” she said. “I ran out to Park Avenue and got in the first cab I saw and went home.”
Dunning took the stand as a “prior bad acts” or “Molineux” witness – an accuser whose allegations are too old to prosecute but has been allowed to testify to bolster prosecutors’ case that Weinstein engaged in a pattern of sexual assault.
On cross examination, she acknowledged under questioning by defense attorney Arthur Aidala that no one stopped her from leaving the room or blocked the door.
Dunning acknowledged that she went public in October 2017 with her description of the second encounter with Weinstein, discussing it in multiple media interviews, but did not mention the earlier encounter until she called the district attorney’s office in July 2019.
“Just shy of two years, after all those interviews, you said you have some more information I want to tell you,” Aidala asked.
Aidala asked her why she didn’t leave immediately after Weinstein greeted her in a bathrobe.
“You thought it was weird but not so weird you had to leave?” Aidala said. “Is it true that you told (CNN’s) Don Lemon that you thought it was weird, but not so weird you had to leave?”
“I never said that,” Dunning replied.
Tarale Wulff, another then-aspiring actress, also is set to take the stand as a prior bad acts witness. Wulff, 43, who now works as a model, says she was raped in the summer of 2005 at Weinstein’s downtown apartment in New York, according to her lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, who issued a statement about her allegations as the trial opened earlier this month.
On Tuesday, the court got a moment of welcome levity, thanks to a chihuahua named Peanut.
When Elizabeth Entin, the ex-roommate of Weinstein accuser Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi, took the stand, she recalled an instance when the embattled movie mogul allegedly came to their New York City apartment unannounced in 2006.
“My chihuahua started chasing him around and he was saying, ‘Get this thing away from me,’ ” Entin said. Before Weinstein’s alleged rape of Haleyi that summer, “we thought it was just this pathetic older man trying to hit on Miriam and had a laugh about it.”
Haleyi is one of the two accusers whose accusations form the basis of the charges against Weinstein.
This week, after Wulff and Dunning testify, the other complaining witness will take the stand. Jessica Mann says Weinstein raped her at a hotel in 2013.
A third and final Molineux witness will likely testify Monday, completing the bulk of a prosecution case that began last Wednesday. The trial opened Jan. 6 and could last until early March.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with five sex crimes, including rape and sexual assault, stemming from encounters with Haleyi and Mann. He pleaded not guilty and has denied all nonconsensual sexual encounters.