A model whose police report caused sex crimes prosecutors to investigate Harvey Weinstein in 2015 — two years before his colossal downfall in 2017 — testified in Weinstein’s rape trial on Tuesday at the criminal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.
Ambra Battilana Gutierrez — who is an uncharged witness in Weinstein’s current trial — was at the center of a NYPD sting operation in 2015. She had cooperated with police to wear a wire and record Weinstein, following her allegations that he had groped her breasts and put his hand up her skirt during a casting meeting. Gutierrez’s participation with the cops led to Weinstein being investigated, but former Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance opted not to prosecute the case and Weinstein was never charged. After that first brush with authorities, Weinstein continued to court power as one of the most influential producers in Hollywood for more than two years, until further allegations against him ignited the #MeToo movement. Gutierrez’s audio recording became a smoking gun when it was later published in Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein exposé in The New Yorker in October 2017.
The model has become one of the most prominent accusers associated with Weinstein’s downfall, having spoken out about her allegations many times over the past few years. When her story hit the press in 2015 and Weinstein was arrested, she received ample tabloid attention. She has since said in interviews that she believes Weinstein planted negative stories about her, and that many forces helped to enable and cover up for Weinstein. (In this L.A. case, she is being identified as “Ambra B.,” in order to protect her identity, but given her public appearances in the past, Variety is using her full name.)
On Tuesday, Gutierrez was called by the prosecution as a “prior bad acts” witness — in other words, the D.A.’s office is presenting her account to the jury, in order to establish a pattern of behavior by Weinstein, but none of the charges Weinstein is facing in the trial stem from her allegations. During her testimony, the jury was shown extensive surveillance video of Gutierrez with Weinstein during the alleged incidents and listened to audio recordings that Gutierrez had secretly captured, in conjunction with NYPD.
Gutierrez came to New York City from her native Italy, and briefly met Weinstein at a party at Radio City Music Hall that she attended with her modeling agency on March 26, 2015. When Weinstein introduced himself to her, Gutierrez did not know who he was. She told the jury that Weinstein paid close attention to her and said she looked like Mila Kunis. She introduced Weinstein to her agent, and the next day, her agent had booked a casting meeting with Weinstein.
That next day, March 27, 2015, Gutierrez went to the casting meeting at Weinstein’s Tribeca offices in downtown Manhattan. An assistant brought her into an office where she was alone with Weinstein, and seated next to him on a couch, she showed him her modeling portfolio, which contained lingerie and bikini photos. Looking at the photos, Weinstein asked if her breasts were real. “It was weird. Nobody ever asked,” Gutierrez told the jury, comparing her meeting with Weinstein to typical casting meetings. She said that Weinstein asked, “You sure?” and then grabbed her breasts.
“At first, I just stand still,” Gutierrez testified. “I was shocked.”
Gutierrez said Weinstein then asked her for a kiss and she “moved back.” He put his hand on her leg, she recalled, and “he was trying” to reach underneath her skirt.
“I said, ‘Sorry, I don’t do these things with people I don’t know,’ and he pushed back,” Gutierrez told the jury. She explained that he attempted to ask for a kiss numerous times, but when he realized that she was declining, he moved further away from her on the couch.
After the incident, Gutierrez was “shaking” and felt like she was “about to pass out.” Weinstein left the meeting, and one of his assistants told her that Weinstein wanted to invite her to a Broadway play he produced, “Finding Neverland,” which was in the theater that night. Gutierrez didn’t tell anyone in Weinstein’s office what had just happened, explaining, “I felt like if he did that in his office when people were outside, I didn’t feel safe there…I felt like I needed to go to the police.”
Gutierrez immediately went to her agency to tell her agents what had happened, and said she wanted to go to the police station. She said her agent tried to prevent her from going to the police because of Weinstein’s power in the industry, but she went anyway. “I couldn’t understand. I felt like something bad happened, and when something bad happened, you go to the police,” she said in court.
With her agent accompanying her, she went to the police station and reported the groping incident the same night it allegedly occurred. The first station sent her to the SVU where she spoke with authorities. (In court on Tuesday, a detective who was at the police station the night Gutierrez reported the incident in 2015, testified and told the jury that he recalls her being “shaken up” and “crying” with mascara running down her face and “thought she might need to vomit.”)
While Gutierrez was at the police station, Weinstein sent her an email asking her to meet him at the Broadway show that his assistant had invited her to earlier that day. The police instructed Gutierrez to contact Weinstein, so that they could record the call, and she spoke to Weinstein while the police instructed her on how to speak to him. In court, jurors listened to the recording of this call in which Weinstein said, “I felt bad…I don’t want to be aggressive with you…I like you.” On that call, the police had instructed Gutierrez to bring up his earlier commentary about her breasts being fake, and when she did, Weinstein said “they feel beautiful,” but “I can tell” if they’re fake. Calling her “sweetheart,” “honey” and “baby,” at one point, Weinstein said, “I feel immediate affection to you.” In the context of speaking about potential acting roles, Weinstein offered to be a “mentor,” which he described as when an “older man teachers younger women.”
Per the police’s instruction, Gutierrez made plans to meet up with Weinstein the next day. “The police agent was telling me what to ask,” she explained to the jury. With his assistant on the line, during another call the next morning, Weinstein reserved tickets to “Finding Neverland,” and arranged to have his driver pick up Gutierrez at her apartment and bring her to the theater; after, he would have his driver bring her to the Tribeca Grand hotel where he planned to meet her for a drink.
Gutierrez went to the Tribeca Grand wearing a wire from the police to record Weinstein. The jury was played this recording Tuesday in court, as well.
At the hotel, Gutierrez got a coffee downstairs with Weinstein. During that meeting, he said, “If you want to spend time with me, I will mentor you.” At another point, he complimented her, “You’re more beautiful than Adriana Lima…you’re amazing.” Abruptly, he is heard saying, “I’m going to go upstairs to my room. Let’s go.”
Weinstein told Gutierrez that he was going to take a shower in the room. When she expressed discomfort with going into the room and being put in a situation where anything could be sexual, he said, “We won’t do that…we’ll do other things, but not that.” He mentioned a massage and Gutierrez said, “No, I don’t want to.” Weinstein replied, “Okay, we’ll see.” On the recording, he is heard saying, “Don’t be shy,” and “Don’t worry. I’m not being pushy.”
Even though undercover cops were surrounding Gutierrez, in an effort to leave Weinstein, she told him that she forgot her jacket downstairs in the lobby. He insisted on going with her downstairs. “He always followed,” Gutierrez said on the stand. In an effort to interfere, one of the undercover cops posed as a TMZ gossip reporter and began to question Weinstein, who became angered. When that plan didn’t work, Gutierrez continued to walk with Weinstein through the hotel, as he was guiding her upstairs to a room. “I was just trying to go with the flow,” Gutierrez testified. “I knew police was around me.”
Part of Gutierrez and Weinstein’s recorded conversation occurred in an elevator full of people. Weinstein told Gutierrez not to embarrass him in front of other people. “You must come here now,” Weinstein demanded on the tape.” She said, “I don’t want to be touched…I want to go downstairs.”
“Honey, don’t have a fight with me in the hallway,” Weinstein said. Gutierrez asked, “Why yesterday you touch my breast?” Weinstein then said, “Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.” At another point, he told her, “If you do this now, never call me again,” and “You will lose big opportunities.”
“I just wanted to get out of there,” Gutierrez told the jury. She had realized that no police officers had followed her up to the floor where Weinstein was taking her, and he was insisting she go into the room with him. “I really didn’t want to get into the room,” Gutierrez said, but she didn’t know if she had to stay to collect more information for the NYPD. “At that point, I wanted to leave. I felt alone,” she said. “I didn’t like it. I didn’t want him to get me into a room where I was alone with him.” She left to go to the elevator, and Weinstein once again followed her and insisted they get a drink at the hotel bar downstairs, even though she had told him multiple times that she doesn’t drink alcohol. The police had previously instructed her to go to the bathroom whenever she felt uncomfortable, so she went into the hotel bathroom downstairs where a police agent was waiting for her, and she safely left the hotel.
After Gutierrez’s testimony and the jury listening to the recordings and watching the hotel surveillance, Weinstein’s defense attorney, Alan Jackson, cross-examined Gutierrez briefly, only asking very few questions.
“The underlying incident that all this is about is that Mr. Weinstein touched your breast one time — for one second?” Jackson asked Gutierrez.
“I don’t know if it was one second,” she said. “It felt a lot longer. It felt like an eternity.”
Jackson told Gutierrez that in previous interviews with detectives from the D.A’s office, she had said it was “maybe a second.” Dissecting more of her own statements, Weinstein’s attorney continued to look through transcripts from Gutierrez’s previous interviews with authorities and prodded into her exact words. In one police interview, Gutierrez had said that Weinstein touched her “knee,” but Jackson pointed out that during her testimony in court, she told the jury that Weinstein had touched her “top of leg.”
Gutierrez shot back at Jackson: “My knee is part of my leg…what’s the difference?”
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