NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Weinstein is defending his use of a private spy agency that allegedly dug up dirt on his accusers, saying Thursday he did it “for days like this.”
The unscripted remark came as the former Hollywood producer left his New York City trial, where the woman he’s charged with raping is set to testify on Friday.
Weinstein, who’s been more apt to engage with reporters in recent days, was responding to a question asking why his private lawyers hired Black Cube, a firm founded by former analysts from Israeli intelligence agencies.
Thursday's court session ended with brief testimony about Weinstein’s contract with Black Cube. His relationship with the firm was explored in Ronan Farrow’s book about the Weinstein saga, “Catch and Kill.”
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Prosecutors say Black Cube investigators working on Weinstein's behalf used fake identities to gather information on his accusers, with the ultimate goal of thwarting the publication of stories about the film producer’s alleged sex offenses.
Weinstein, 67, turned to Black Cube in 2017 as The New York Times and The New Yorker were pursuing stories about his behavior with women. Those stories, published in October 2017, spawned the #MeToo movement.
Jurors on Thursday also saw an email from Weinstein to someone at Black Cube reading: "Red flags are the ones of interest" — what prosecutors say was a reference to list of names marked in red to identify accusers.
They included “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who testifiedlast week that Weinstein overpowered and raped her after barging into her apartment in the mid-1990s.
As prosecutors start to wind up their case, they are turning Friday to the woman whose rape allegation is at the heart of the some of the more serious charges against Weinstein, who insists any sexual encounters were consensual.
At the same time, Weinstein’s lawyers are preparing to grill her with warm emails she sent him after the alleged assaults that they say belie any victimization.
The woman, whom The Associated Press is not naming, alleges Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel room in March 2013, when she was a 27-year-old aspiring actress.
She also alleges that he raped her again eight months later, in November 2013, after she went to his room at another Manhattan hotel to cut his hair. Weinstein hasn’t been charged in that incident.
Between the two alleged incidents, the woman emailed Weinstein to say that she “was hoping for some time privately with you to share the direction I am going in life and catch up.”
In another, she wrote: “Miss you, big guy.”
The woman’s emails continued for several years after the alleged rapes, Weinstein’s lawyers said. They’ve said they collected roughly 400 messages between the two — none in which she accuses Weinstein of harming her.
In February 2017, the woman wrote Weinstein to tell him she had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t make it to a hotel to see him.
“I love you, always do. But I hate feeling like a booty call,” she wrote, adding a smiling-face symbol afterward.
Prosecutor Meghan Hast sought to prepare jurors for that evidence in her opening statement last week, saying that the accuser taking the witness stand Friday had “buried her trauma” and was trying to navigate Weinstein’s once powerful grip on her by saying nice things and pretending she wanted to see him.
To prosecutors, she’s a prime example of a Weinstein target: a young, vulnerable woman who believed the once-revered movie mogul sincerely wanted to help her fledgling career, only for him to make increasingly vile sexual advances.
“He was the old lady in the gingerbread house luring the kids in, missing the oven behind,” Hast said in her opening statement.
The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of sexual assault accusers without their consent. It is withholding the woman’s name because it isn’t clear if she wishes to be identified publicly.
The woman testifying Friday met Weinstein at a Hollywood party in February 2013 and he appeared to take an instant liking to her, Hast said.
They had several follow up meetings, ostensibly to talk about her career, but things turned more and more sexual, the prosecutor said.
At one meeting, Weinstein tried to give the woman a massage, only for her to rebuff him and offer him a massage instead, Hast said. At another meeting, he forcibly performed oral sex on her, she said.
The day of the March 2013 alleged rape, Hast said, the woman and her actress roommate were supposed to meet Weinstein for breakfast, but instead the woman and Weinstein got into heated confrontation that he demanded they finish in his hotel room.
There, Hast said, Weinstein started ripping the woman’s clothes off and raped her. Afterward, the prosecutor said, the woman found a needle in the bathroom that Weinstein had apparently injected into his penis to induce an erection.
It was the day before his 61st birthday.
On Twitter, follow Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Tom Hays at twitter.com/aptomhays