Witness says Rose McGowan, Annabella Sciorra were on Harvey Weinstein’s ‘red flag list’ – USA TODAY

Patrick Ryan and Maria Puente


Published 1:48 PM EST Jan 24, 2020

NEW YORK – Prosecutors in Harvey Weinstein’s sex-crimes trial called a witness Friday to testify that the besieged movie producer gave investigators he contacted in 2017 a “red flag list” of people, including accusers Rose McGowan and Annabella Sciorra, who he feared might extort him.

Sam Anson, senior managing director of Guidepost Solutions, said on the stand he was contacted by Weinstein in August 2017 to investigate people on Weinstein’s list.

“He was concerned people on the list were providing information to journalists who were writing stories about him,” Anson said. “He was concerned the articles being written about him would discuss his sexual conduct in a negative way…. He also did raise the possibility he was being extorted in that respect.”

He said Sciorra’s name was listed in red on the list, and that Weinstein “mentioned a woman by the name of Rose McGowan.” 

Actress Sciorra, known for her work on “The Sopranos,” testified at the trial on Thursday that Weinstein raped her in 2013. McGowan was one of Weinstein’s earliest accusers, whose allegation that he raped her years ago led to media exposes in October 2017 that described decades of alleged sexual misconduct by Weinstein.

In the 20-minute call he received from Weinstein, Anson said the movie producer was “agitated, not happy.” 

Anson also said that he didn’t actually carry out the investigation Weinstein sought. 

Anson’s statements after prosecutors called forensic psychiatrist Barbara Ziv to the stand to testify about her expertise in the field of sexual assault and how “rape trauma syndrome” affects victims.

She told the jury that “rape myths” are real and damaging, and her research is intended to help dispel the most common misconceptions. 

Victims, she said, “almost always” go back to their assailants….It’s extremely common, in fact it’s the norm,” for victims to have subsequent contact with their assailants after the attack.  

Ziv was a key witness in the prosecution of Bill Cosby at his April 2018 retrial, which resulted in his conviction on three sex crimes in connection with a 2004 encounter with a woman at his home outside Philadelphia. 

Ziv is the prosecution’s expert witness against Weinstein, intended to explain what research shows is “normal” behavior for victims of assaults. 

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said Ziv has not interviewed any witnesses in the Weinstein case, nor did she hear the opening statements or any testimony. 

Her testimony is “based on general knowledge” of this subject, Illuzzi said, so she is considered “a blind expert.”  She’s testified in more than 200 civil and criminal cases.

Weinstein’s lawyers have argued that emails and text messages with his accusers show they remained friendly long after their alleged assaults. 

Ziv said people have preconceived notions about sexual assault “that are usually wrong.”

She said one of the most common “rape myths” is that sexual assault is perpetuated by strangers, even though research shows that 85% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by people familiar to the victim, she said. Also, she said, “the vast majority of victims of sexual assault don’t report promptly.” 

She said the reasons why victims maintain contact are complex, including threats, explicit or implicit. 

“Most individuals think, ‘I can put it behind me, I can move on with my life and forget about what happened to me. I don’t want it to get worse. I don’t want this person who sexually assaulted me to ruin my friendships or put my job in jeopardy,” Ziv said. “…There are often threats. ‘If you tell anybody this, I’m going to ruin your reputation. I’m going to bring you down.’ ” 

She used a diagram of a brain to talk about “traumatic memory,” how victims can remember specific, often random details about their attacker or surroundings, but may not be able to recount the whole thing. “A lot of memories might be suppressed or forgotten as a way of coping,” she said.

On cross examination, defense attorney Damon Cheronis challenged Ziv’s statements and testimony in the past, such as her remark that post-traumatic stress syndrome can be “easily faked,” and her argument on CNN last March that invoking the MeToo movement has led to “distorted” discussions about sexual assault.

“I think that that does a disservice to everybody, to individuals who’ve been accused of sexual assault as well as victims of sexual assault,” Ziv said on CNN.

Cheronis also noted that she said in testimony in another case of the accuser: “If she’s conscious, she could yell at him or elbow him.”

Cheronis asked why she is now testifying that sexual assault victims typically don’t fight back. Ziv replied he was “twisting” her words.

In a situation where two individuals have sex, and one person feels regret and shame about it, could that person relabel it a sexual assault years later? Cheronis asked.

“Anything is possible. It’s not usual,” Ziv replied.

Can accusers’ accounts of sexual assault become more elaborate over time? Cheronis asked.

She said accusers might start with more general or vague descriptions “to see what kind of feedback they get, whether they’re going to be shamed,” Ziv said. “They may never come out with the whole story from beginning to end, so it’s not uncommon to kind of fill in the blanks and become more elaborate. It’s a difficult subject to talk about.”

Friday’s developments in court followed a dramatic day on Thursday when the first of the six named accusers in the case, “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, 59, took the stand to tell the jury that Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment in the winter of 1993-94, and then told her in a “threatening” and “menacing” way not to tell anyone.

“I was punching him, I was kicking him, I was trying to get him away from me,” she said, crying at times. “He got on top of me and he raped me….He had intercourse with me, and I was trying to fight him, but I couldn’t fight anymore because he had my hands locked (over her head).”

On cross examination, Weinstein’s lead defense attorney, Donna Rotunno, tried to raise doubts about details in her story. Did she call her building’s doorman, or file a complaint with the condo board? Did she call the police? Go to a doctor or a hospital? Sciorra answered no to all these questions.

 “I didn’t understand that was rape,” Sciorra said about the encounter.

“You were 33 years old,” Rotunno said.   

The trial, which opened Jan. 6, is likely to last two months.

A former powerful producer in Hollywood, Weinstein, 67, is charged with five sex crimes, including rape and sexual assault, stemming from encounters with two women, Jessica Mann in 2013 and Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi in 2006. 

He pleaded not guilty to all charges and denied all nonconsensual sex. He has been charged with similar sex crimes in Los Angeles; that case is on hold until the New York case is resolved.  

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