A model whose police report prompted sex crimes prosecutors to investigate Harvey Weinstein in 2015 – two years before his colossal fall in 2017 – testified Tuesday during Weinstein’s rape trial at the downtown courthouse in Los Angeles.
Ambra Battilana Gutierrez – who is an unindicted witness in Weinstein’s current trial – was at the center of a 2015 NYPD sting operation. which he had fondled her breasts and put his hand under her skirt during a casting. Gutierrez’s involvement with the cops led to an investigation of Weinstein, but former Manhattan prosecutor Cyrus Vance chose not to pursue the case and Weinstein was never charged. After this first contact with the authorities, Weinstein continued to court power as one of Hollywood’s most influential producers for more than two years, until new allegations against him sparked the #MeToo movement. . Gutierrez’s audio recording became a smoking gun when it was later published in Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein expose 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 his allegations several times over the past few years. When her story appeared in the press in 2015 and Weinstein was arrested, she received great tabloid attention. She has since said in interviews that she believes Weinstein planted negative stories about her and that many forces worked to enable and conceal Weinstein. (In this LA case, she is identified as “Ambra B.” in order to protect her identity, but given her public appearances in the past, Variety uses his full name.)
On Tuesday, Gutierrez was called by the prosecution as a witness to “prior wrongdoing” – in other words, the prosecutor’s office is presenting his story to the jury, in order to establish a pattern of Weinstein’s behavior, but no of the charges Weinstein faces trial stems from his allegations. During his testimony, the jury viewed extended surveillance video of Gutierrez with Weinstein during the alleged incidents and listened to audio recordings that Gutierrez had secretly captured, in conjunction with the NYPD.
Gutierrez came to New York from her native Italy and briefly met Weinstein at a party at Radio City Music Hall she attended with her modeling agency on March 26, 2015. When Weinstein introduced himself to her, Gutierrez didn’t know who he was. She told the jury that Weinstein paid her special attention 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.
The next day, March 27, 2015, Gutierrez went to the casting meeting at Weinstein’s Tribeca offices in midtown Manhattan. An assistant brought her into an office where she was alone with Weinstein, and seated next to him on a sofa, she showed him her modeling portfolio, which included 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, likening her encounter with Weinstein to typical casting meetings. She said Weinstein asked, “Are you sure?” then grabbed her breasts .
“At first I stand still,” Gutierrez said. “I was shocked.”
Gutierrez said Weinstein then asked her for a kiss and she “backed off.” He put his hand on her leg, she recalls, and “he was trying” to reach under 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 tried to ask for a kiss several times, but when he realized she was refusing, he pulled 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 aides told him that Weinstein wanted to invite him to a Broadway play he had produced, “Finding Neverland,” which was in theaters 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 not safe there… I felt like I needed to go to the police.”
Gutierrez immediately went to her agency to tell her officers what had happened and said she wanted to go to the police station. She said her agent tried to stop her from going to the police because of Weinstein’s power in the industry, but she went anyway. ” I could not understand. I felt like something bad happened, and when something bad happened you go to the police,” she told the court.
Accompanied by her agent, she went to the police station and reported the groping incident the same evening it allegedly happened. The first station sent her to SVU where she spoke with authorities. (In court Tuesday, a detective who was at the police station the night Gutierrez reported the incident in 2015, testified and told the jury he remembered her being “shaken” and “crying.” with mascara running down her face and “thought she might need to vomit.”)
While Gutierrez was at the police station, Weinstein emailed her asking to meet him at the Broadway show his assistant had invited her to earlier that day. Police asked Gutierrez to contact Weinstein, so they could record the call, and she spoke to Weinstein while police instructed her on how to talk to him. In court, jurors listened to a recording of that call in which Weinstein said, “I felt bad…I don’t want to be aggressive with you…I love you.” During that call, police had asked Gutierrez to bring up her previous comment about her breasts being fake, and when she did, Weinstein said ‘they feel beautiful’, but ‘I can say’ if they are wrong. Calling her “sweetheart,” “sweetie” and “baby,” at one point Weinstein said, “I feel immediate affection for you.” In the context of talking about potential acting roles, Weinstein offered to be a “mentor,” which he described as when an “older man teaches younger women.”
According to police instructions, Gutierrez planned to meet Weinstein the next day. “The police officer was telling me what to ask,” she told the jury. With his online assistant, in another call the next morning, Weinstein booked tickets to “Finding Neverland” and arranged for his driver to pick up Gutierrez from his apartment and take him to the theater; afterwards, he would ask his driver to take her to the Tribeca Grand Hotel where he planned to meet her for a drink.
Gutierrez went to the Tribeca Grand carrying a telegram from the police to register Weinstein. The jury also played that recording in court on Tuesday.
At the hotel, Gutierrez had coffee downstairs with Weinstein. During this meeting, he said, “If you want to hang out with me, I’ll guide you.” At another point, he complimented her, “You’re prettier than Adriana Lima…you’re amazing.” Suddenly, we hear him say, “I’m going up to my room.” Let’s go.”
Weinstein told Gutierrez he was going to take a shower in the bedroom. When she expressed her discomfort about walking into the room and being put in a situation where everything 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.” Weinstein replied, “Okay, we’ll see.” On the recording, he is heard saying “Don’t be shy” and “Don’t worry. I’m not pushy.
Even as plainclothes cops surrounded Gutierrez, in an attempt to get Weinstein off, she told him she forgot her jacket downstairs in the lobby. He insisted on going down with her. “He always followed,” Gutierrez said on the helm. In an effort to interfere, one of the undercover cops posed as a TMZ gossip reporter and began questioning Weinstein, who became angry. When that plan didn’t work, Gutierrez continued to walk Weinstein through the hotel, as he guided her upstairs to a bedroom. “I was just trying to go with the flow,” Gutierrez said. “I knew the police were around me.”
Part of Gutierrez and Weinstein’s taped conversation took place in a crowded elevator. Weinstein told Gutierrez not to embarrass him in front of other people. “You have to come here now,” Weinstein demanded on the tape. She said, “I don’t want to be touched…I want to get off.
“Honey, don’t fight me in the hallway,” Weinstein said. Gutierrez asked, “Why yesterday did you touch my chest?” Weinstein then said, “Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.” At another point, he told her, “If you do this now, don’t ever call me again” and “You’re going to lose great opportunities”.
“I just wanted to get out of there,” Gutierrez told the jury. She had realized that no police had followed her to the floor where Weinstein was taking her, and he insisted that she enter the room with him. “I really didn’t want to come into the room,” Gutierrez said, but she wasn’t sure if she should stay to gather more information for the NYPD. “At that time, I wanted to leave. I felt alone,” she said. ” I did not like. I didn’t want him to take me into a room where I was alone with him. She left to go to the elevator, and Weinstein followed her again and insisted that they have a drink at the hotel bar downstairs, even though she had repeatedly told him that she wouldn’t. didn’t drink alcohol. The police had previously ordered her to go to the bathroom whenever she felt uncomfortable, so she went to the hotel bathroom downstairs where a police officer was waiting for her, and she left. the hotel safely.
After Gutierrez testified and the jury listened to the tapes and watched the hotel surveillance, Weinstein’s defense attorney Alan Jackson briefly cross-examined Gutierrez, asking very few questions.
“The underlying incident this is about is that Mr. Weinstein touched your breast once – for a second?” Jackson asked Gutierrez.
“I don’t know if it was a second,” she said. “It felt a lot longer. It felt like an eternity.”
Jackson told Gutierrez that in previous interviews with detectives from the DA’s office, she said it was “maybe a second.” Dissecting more of his own statements, Weinstein’s attorney continued to sift through transcripts of Gutierrez’s previous interviews with authorities and dig deeper into his exact words. In a police interview, Gutierrez said Weinstein touched her “knee,” but Jackson pointed out that during her court testimony, she told the jury that Weinstein touched her “the top of her neck.” leg”.
Gutierrez fired back at Jackson, “My knee is part of my leg…what’s the difference?”