Harvey Weinstein’s trial on rape allegations entered its second week with some discussion of how quickly the proceedings are moving.
Although the prosecution still has a number of witnesses to call, Weinstein’s attorney Mark Werksman told the judge that “we could very well have the bulk of the case by Thanksgiving week” finished with just a couple more days left of testimony. That would be a quicker timeline than has been estimated.
The proceedings on Monday were dominated by the testimony of Kelly Sipherd, who claimed that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in a hotel room during the Toronto Film Festival in 1991 and later sought sex and masturbated in front of her in a hotel bathroom in 2008.
Sipherd is among a series of “prior bad acts” witnesses who are testifying in the trial. Their claims are not the basis for the charges against Weinstein, but are being allowed to testify as the prosecution tries to establish a pattern of his behavior.
Sipherd said that, more than 30 years ago, she was a young actress when, at the Toronto festival in 1991, she met Weinstein and took him up on his offer to have a glass of wine. He offered her encouraging words about her career, including the prospect of a role in one of his movies, and she then took him up on his invitation to further discuss a movie at his hotel room.
“I was pretty ambitious. I thought this was a great opportunity, so I went with him. It sounded very interesting…I was hoping to get a part in the film,” she said in court.
She said that when they got to the room, Weinstein went into the bathroom and then returned “naked with his shirt unbuttoned.” She said that Weinstein’s move was “shocking,” and he took her skirt off and put a hot cloth on her vagina. She said that she asked him to stop, but he began giving her oral sex.
“At that point I was kind of frozen…I was just asking him to stop. No, stop it what are you doing,” she said.
She said that Weinstein told her, “I’m going to f— you and it won’t take long. Just relax.” She said that she then “started crying and I reached for his back and I got out from under him.” She said that Weinstein briefly penetrated her, for five to ten seconds, before she eventually got away.
“He seemed to think I would like it, and obviously I did not,” she said.
She said that she went to her friend Janet’s place and told her what happened. Weinstein, she said, called “often” after that, and she still wanted to connect with him because of her acting aspirations. She said that in one phone call she asked Weinstein why he raped her, and he responded, “That’s not what happened. I really, really like you. I’d leave my wife for you.”
She did take Weinstein up on an invite to come to New York to meet a casting executive, and he paid for her flight and her hotel room. But she said she took her friend with her.
“I thought it was a really good opportunity, and one I didn’t think I could pass up,” Siperd said.
She didn’t go to the audition, but ended up seeing Weinstein many years later, also in Toronto during a film festival. Then, she said she was with a close friend, her daughter and one of her daughter’s friends in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel when Weinstein walked by and she blurted out his name.
I was shocked to see him. …I was shocked, but I knew it was possible he could be around,” she said.
Weinstein’s assistant then found her and invited her up to his suite, she said. Sipherd said that she “wanted to see him because I wanted to ask him after all this time, what had happened all those years ago. I wanted to confront him, and I had thought about it often.”
She intended to confront him, she said. When she got to the room, she said, she asked Weinstein, “How does it feel to be in front of the one woman who said no to you?”
Weinstein asked his assistant to wait in the hallway.
Then, she said, they ended up in the bathroom, and Weinstein started propositioning her for sex.
“It went from what felt like he was listening to me to wanting to have sex with me. Demanding it. Grabbing at me,” she said. She said that he began masturbating, and she remembered saying, “My husband and children are downstairs. I have to get out of here. Let’s stop this. That’s enough.”
When it was over, she said she didn’t want to tell friends or family what had happened.
“They thought I was pretty darn cool because I knew Harvey Weinstein. So I played that,” she said.
Weinstein’s attorney Alan Jackson questioned her on why she initially kept in contact with Weinstein after the alleged 1991 assault. He said that a person who did what she said Weinstein did “would be someone you would never want to see again and she would “avoid that person pretty much at all costs.” Instead, he noted, Sipherd went to New York, with Weinstein paying for the flight and hotel.
“Well, isn’t that someone does in a business situation where they want to audition someone,” she said, acknowledging that she was “naive” and “didn’t really know how these things work.”
Jackson also asked why, in 2008, she didn’t call for help from the hotel room, given that she said Weinstein’s assistant was just outside the room.
“I was actually mortified and in shock,” she said. “I just didn’t believe it and she wouldn’t have heard me,” she said.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty on eleven sexual assault charges brought by Los Angeles prosecutors that involve claims of five women between 2004 and 2013.
Weinstein was convicted in 2020 on New York charges of rape and criminal sexual acts, and he was sentenced to 23 years in prison. He was granted an appeal by New York’s highest court in August, raising the chance that his conviction in that state will be overturned.