At the 2018 Oscars, actress Annabella Sciorra and two other leaders of the Time’s Up movement spoke out about the sexual harassment that had rattled Hollywood.
“This year many spoke their truth,” Sciorra said then. “And the journey ahead is long, but slowly, a new path has emerged.”
For Sciorra, that new path is likely take her to a New York courtroom and a faceoff with Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul who allegedly raped her in her apartment more than two decades ago.
Prosecutors filed a new indictment against Weinstein on Monday in an effort to add Sciorra’s testimony to his upcoming criminal trial in January. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to five sexual assault charges, and his attorneys have argued the encounters were consensual.
The judge has not made a final ruling if Sciorra will be allowed to testify, but her attorney Gloria Allred said prosecutors had asked her to do so.
“I admire Annabella’s courage,” Allred said outside court. “She has been willing to testify when asked to do so because she feels that it is in the interest of justice for the jury to hear and evaluate all relevant evidence in order for them to decide the appropriate verdict in this case.”
Sciorra is best known for her Emmy-winning role in HBO’s “The Sopranos” as Gloria Trillo, Tony Soprano’s volatile mistress. But she first reached wider fame with her early 1990s starring turns in the Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever” and the psychological thriller “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.”
Those early performances put her on Weinstein’s radar.
Sciorra first publicly accused Weinstein of a violent rape in October 2017 in an explosive story by The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow. She said she met Weinstein in the early 1990s, and they worked together on the film “The Night We Never Met,” a romantic comedy produced by Weinstein’s studio Miramax.
At a dinner that both attended, Weinstein dropped Sciorra off at her apartment in New York, she told The New Yorker. She said she then heard a knock at the door, and when she opened it, Weinstein burst in and cornered her. She told him to leave, but he grabbed her, shoved her onto the bed and forced sexual intercourse on her, she told the magazine. He then allegedly attempted to perform oral sex on her.
She did not tell police about the alleged attack, and Weinstein continued to sexually harass her for years afterward, she told The New Yorker.
Why Sciorra’s testimony matters
That alleged attack is outside of the statute of limitations for sexual assault, and Weinstein is not directly charged with the encounter.
Still, Weinstein faces two counts of predatory sexual assault, and he can be convicted if prosecutors prove he committed sex crimes against multiple victims. Sciorra’s testimony is solely relevant to these two charges.
Manhattan prosecutors included Sciorra in an amended bill of particulars outlining their case in February to support these charges. The defense sought to keep her from testifying, saying it effectively charged him with a new crime that had not been presented to the grand jury.
Justice James Burke sided with the defense in an August 8 ruling, so Manhattan prosecutors convened another grand jury this month, resulting in the indictment unsealed on Monday.
Allred said in a statement that Sciorra is prepared to testify in court for the prosecution.
“I commend Annabella for her willingness to take the stand and answer questions under oath. She has been willing to do that and share her truth even though she could anticipate a vigorous cross examination by the defense, which no doubt would not be pleasant for any witness to endure,” Allred said.
“She was willing to undergo that questioning even though there is no personal benefit to her, and even though it could be extremely stressful for her to do so.”
If she does testify, Sciorra would not be the only witness to speak about alleged assaults. The judge in Weinstein’s case will allow three additional accusers to testify as “prior bad acts” witnesses against him, according to court documents filed Monday by prosecutors.
The sexual assault charges against Weinstein relate to two women – one on July 10, 2006, and another on March 18, 2013. But the three additional witnesses would testify about other uncharged acts as prosecutors try to show Weinstein had a similar pattern of behavior.
In general, “prior bad acts” witnesses strengthen the prosecution’s case, particularly in a he said-she said sexual assault trial with limited physical evidence. In Bill Cosby’s trial, for example, five “prior bad acts” witnesses testified that the comedian had previously drugged and assaulted them, and the jury found him guilty.
CNN’s Lauren del Valle, Aaron Cooper, Elizabeth Joseph, Emanuella Grinberg and Jean Casarez contributed to this report.