"I just sat down and I started crying," Mimi Haleyi said

By Jeff Truesdell
February 25, 2020 12:10 PM
Advertisement

The woman whose testimony led a New York jury to convict disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of criminal sex act says that after learning the verdict, “I just sat down and I started crying.”

“It was just a huge sense of relief — just the relief that the jury got it, that they believed me and I was heard,” Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi said Tuesday on Good Morning America.

Haleyi — who has since legally changed her name to Hayley — testified that in 2006, Weinstein forced oral sex on her in his Manhattan apartment. She was one of two women around whom prosecutors built their indictment charging Weinstein with felony criminal sexual assault and four other charges.

The other woman, aspiring actress Jessica Mann, testified about a 2013 incident at a Manhattan hotel that led Weinstein to be found guilty of third-degree rape.

Weinstein, 67, was acquitted Monday on three other counts of predatory sexual assault. He faces up to 29 years in prison when he is sentenced March 11.

Weinstein’s defense during his seven-week trial in State Supreme Court in New York argued that his encounters were consensual. His attorneys challenged those women and four others who testified against him by noting the continuing relationships that some of the women maintained with Weinstein after they said he assaulted them.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE’s free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Going public with her accusation was “terrifying,” said Haleyi, a former production assistant on the Weinstein-produced TV show Project Runway. “But after a lot of thought, I just felt that it was the right thing to do, and something that I wanted to follow through with, so that’s why I did it.”

The guilty verdict in her case “gives me hope that we’re making progress,” she said.

Harvey Weinstein
STEVEN HIRSCH/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“I just feel that we’re being educated about the reality of sexual assaults and sexual assault victims, and what that many times involves, and that a lot of sexual assault victims do know their attacker, and they have some sort of relationship to that person, and that brings with it a whole other layer of emotional confusion that you need to process through,” she said.

“And I think that’s what we need to realize … I think we are getting rid of a lot of outdated ideas about these kinds of assaults.”

More than 80 women have raised allegations of assault and harassment by Weinstein since accusations were documented in two published exposés by The New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017. Those articles and the criminal charges that followed helped to propel the wider #MeToo and #TimesUp movements to confront workplace sexual harassment.

Weinstein still faces additional charges of sexual assault in California that were filed as his New York trial began on January 6. He has not yet entered a plea to those charges.