Aspiring Actress Testifies That Harvey Weinstein Assaulted Her, Pressed for Threesome in 2004: "I Was Shocked"

"This is the hardest thing I've ever done," Dawn Dunning told the jury on Wednesday morning. "I would not wish this on anyone."
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
Harvey Weinstein arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial on January 29, 2020.

Onetime aspiring actress Dawn Dunning testified Wednesday morning that Harvey Weinstein sexually penetrated her without her consent in 2004 and pressed her for a threesome with his assistant, screaming at her that it was “how the industry worked” when she protested.

Dunning is one of the four prior bad acts witnesses testifying against Weinstein in his criminal case, a group that includes Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, who told her story last Thursday.

Another onetime aspiring actress, Tarale Wulff, took the stand on Wednesday afternoon to accuse the former movie mogul of masturbating in front of her and then raping her in 2005.

Dunning, now 40, told the jury Wednesday she met Weinstein in 2004 while working as a cocktail waitress at a nightclub and pursuing acting on the side. “I told him I was an actress and he said he could help, and I gave him my number, and I didn’t expect to hear from him because he’s Harvey Weinstein,” Dunning said. “And then I got a call from his assistant pretty shortly after that.”

She was invited to meet Weinstein in a boutique hotel suite that had been made into a makeshift production office. As they sat on a bed, their conversation was initially professional, she said, but he soon put his hand up her skirt and inserted his fingers into her vagina without her consent or desire. There were people in the other room of the suite at the time, she said.

“There were no red flags or alerts or anything that would make me expect this to happen,” Dunning said. “It was a few seconds, but I just kind of froze for a minute and then stood up. He told me not to make a big deal out of it. He apologized, said it wouldn’t happen again, and then we walked back out into the other room. … I was shocked. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen.”

Convincing herself that it was a onetime mistake and “trying to rationalize it in my head,” she agreed to join Weinstein a few weeks later at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manhattan to discuss some film projects. It was there that she says Weinstein pressed her to participate in a threesome with him and his assistant after their meeting had been moved from a hotel bar to a suite. Dunning protested and fled.

“He opened the door and he was wearing an open white hotel bathrobe,” she said. “He kind of cut to the chase and said, ‘Here’s contracts for my next three films. I’ll sign them today. If you have a threesome with me and my assistant.' … When he said that, I laughed. I thought he was kidding. He got really angry and started screaming at me, and he said, 'You’ll never be part of this business. This is how this industry works.”

Dunning continued: “At that point, I got scared. I didn’t know what he was going to do. I ran to the door and literally ran down the hall to the elevator. … He was screaming. He was a big guy, and he was towering over me. I was really scared.”

She said that Weinstein named three prominent actresses who he suggested had achieved prominence by taking him up on his offers of sex for roles.

After her initial alleged assault, Dunning said she didn’t tell anyone what happened. “I was embarrassed,” she said. “I wanted to pretend like it didn’t happen. I didn’t want to be a victim.”

After the second incident, she said she didn't call the police because she didn't know if Weinstein's behavior was criminal.

When asked by the prosecutor whether she was “getting anything” by sharing her accusations against Weinstein with the jury, Dunning said she wasn’t. “If anything, I’m losing,” she said. “I’m losing, I think, money. I think, time. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I would not wish this on anyone.”

On cross-examination, Weinstein attorney Arthur Aidala emphasized the “social and friendship” aspects of Dunning’s approximately eight-month-long relationship with his client.

Asked why she agreed to meet with Weinstein again a few weeks after the initial incident, Dunning said, “I took him at his word.”

Dunning objected to Aidala’s characterization of her 2017 interviews with media outlets as a “media tour.” “It wasn’t a media tour,” she replied.

Aidala also pressed Dunning on why she didn’t initially tell prosecutors and journalists about the time when she alleges Weinstein assaulted her in the SoHo production suite. Instead, she initially only described the time when she says Weinstein pressed her for sex with him and his assistant. She informed lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi about the first incident in July 2018.

“For the first time, after all those media interviews and all those interviews with prosecutors, for the first time, you said, ‘Ms. Illuzzi, I have some other information I want to discuss with you,’” Aidala said.

Referring to an interview Dunning gave to CNN's Don Lemon, Aidala said, “You never told Don Lemon you had a horrible experience two weeks earlier in the SoHo hotel.”

Later in her testimony, Dunning explained to a lawyer for the prosecution why she didn’t initially divulge the SoHo hotel incident. “I never told anyone, not my best friends, anyone, about it,” she said. “The incident that I had talked about — that was hard enough telling my dad and people about that. I just didn’t want to be a victim, and I just wanted to move on and forget it ever happened basically. … When I found out that I was going to testify, I felt that I had to tell the whole truth. I just didn’t know how things work. I didn’t even know it was something that we’d be talking about in court. I  just wanted you guys to know the whole story. You guys were the first people on Earth that I told. No one else knew about it.”