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Trial hears accuser tried to make Weinstein 'pseudo-father'

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New York (AFP)

Harvey Weinstein's defense team presented new messages on Monday that it says prove the disgraced movie mogul was in a consensual relationship with one of the main accusers in his rape trial.

Lead defense attorney Donna Rotunno subjected ex-actress Jessica Mann, who says Weinstein raped her in March 2013, to brutal cross-examination that appeared to severely weaken her earlier testimony.

"Thank you for your unfailing support and kindness. It's helped me believing in myself," Mann wrote in an email to Weinstein six months after she alleges he sexually assaulted her.

"Nobody understands me quite like you," she wrote in another message.

In a third, written in 2014, she referred to Weinstein's smile and "beautiful eyes," the New York state court heard.

Weinstein, 67, faces life imprisonment if convicted of predatory sexual assault related to actress Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, who accuses him of forcibly performing oral sex on her in 2006.

The once-powerful producer of "Pulp Fiction" and "Sin City" denies the charges and maintains that the incidents were consensual. His trial began in earnest almost two weeks ago.

Mann, 34, admitted on Friday that she had had "non-coerced" sexual contact with Weinstein up to 2016.

She said she had only stayed in contact with him out of fear.

But on Monday, the defense asked her to read out an email she wrote to a boyfriend in 2013 in which she talked about Weinstein.

"He offered me help when my parents didn't," she read, choking back tears.

"I tried to make him a pseudo-father. He gave me all the validation I needed," she added, reading what she had written.

Judge James Burke adjourned Monday's hearing early after Mann wept profusely and failed to regain her composure.

Dozens of women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct since claims against him ignited the #MeToo movement in October 2017. Only the cases of Mann and Haleyi have led to criminal charges in the New York court.

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