(NEW YORK) — Heading into the third and final week of testimony in Harvey Weinstein’s rape and sexual assault trial, the Hollywood mogul’s defense attorneys presented a trio of witnesses Monday who sought to challenge the state’s case.
The defense witnesses attempted to raise doubt about three key witnesses — Annabella Sciorra, Lauren Young and the unnamed woman Weinstein is charged with raping in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 — though only one witness struck at an accuser’s core accusations of violent sexual assault.
ABC News is not naming the rape accuser because she says she is a sexual assault victim and — unlike some of the other accusers — has not publicly identified herself. Weinstein is charged with five felony counts and has pleaded not guilty to all of them. He has denied ever engaging in nonconsensual sex.
The rape accuser had portrayed her former roommate and friend, Brazilian actress and model Talita Maia, as the driving force behind the two young women’s early interactions with Weinstein — portraying Maia on the witness stand as needy, pushy and anxious for the Hollywood mogul’s attention.
But over hours of testimony Monday, Maia served to reinforce the defense’s argument that the rape accuser’s relationship with Weinstein was consensual.
The actress, who was subpoenaed by the defense, testified that despite being roommates and friends the rape accuser had never spoken ill of Weinstein, and only once expressed a desire not to see him.
“She said a few times that he was like her spiritual soulmate,” Maia said at one point.
“She said he was the most wonderful person,” she testified at another point.
Maia had breakfast with the rape accuser, Weinstein and another man the morning that Weinstein is charged with raping her at the Doubletree Hotel in midtown Manhattan in March 2013.
Asked if the rape accuser seemed upset at the breakfast, Maia replied that “she seemed normal.”
Asked if Maia was trying to pitch a script to Weinstein at the breakfast meeting, as the rape accuser testified, she denied it.
Under cross examination, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi asked Maia if she had “a very, very bitter falling out” with the rape accuser in 2016 and she denied any disdain for the woman.
“I don’t dislike [her],” Maia said. “[She] did things in my life that impacted my life in a very negative way and … I don’t hate her or anything.”
The second defense witness called to the stand on Monday was the longtime superintendent of a Grammercy Park co-op where Sciorra briefly subleased the apartment where she said she was raped by Weinstein.
Prosecutors have struggled to explain how Weinstein could have gotten past the doorman and up to Sciorra’s 17th-floor apartment without her explicit permission.
Superintendent Nelson Lopez testified stringent building guidelines would not allow uninvited visitors beyond the building’s entranceway. Sciorra testified that Weinstein surprised her by showing up at her apartment door and pushing his way in to rape her after he’d dropped her off out front in a limousine sometime in late 1993 or early 1994.
Even under relentless pressure from prosecutors to acknowledge the possibility that a staffer could have been bribed for entry by Weinstein, Lopez was unflinching in his defense of his staff and explained at length how unlikely that was.
He testified that in 31 years on the job, he had never fired a doorman for breaching protocol.
Monday’s final witness for the defense was Claudia Salinas, a Mexican actress and model who was accused by Young of luring her into a hotel suite bathroom where Weinstein allegedly sexually assaulted Young as Salinas lingered just outside the door, according to Young.
Salinas flatly denied on the witness stand ever accompanying Young and Weinstein up to a hotel suite.
Defense attorney Damon Cheronis kicked off her questioning by launching into a rapid set of exchanges with Salinas that initially seemed compelling.
“I’m going to cut right to it,” Cheronis began. “Have you ever seen Harvey Weinstein run out of a bathroom suite naked?”
“No,” she responded.
“Ever seen him naked under any circumstances?” Cheronis continued.
“No, never,” Salinas replied.
“Did you ever lure Lauren Young into a bathroom w Harvey Weinstein?”
“Did you ever lock Lauren Young in a bathroom with Harvey Weinstein?”
Displaying prosecution photos of the California hotel room where Young testified that Weinstein sexually assaulted her, Cheronis asked, “Do you ever recall following Lauren Young down that hallway as Mr. Weinstein was in front of her?”
“No, that never happened,” Salinas said.
“Did you ever close that door on Lauren Young while she was in a bathroom with Harvey Weinstein?” Cheronis asked at another point.
Asked to explain how she was so certain, she replied that “if I had done that, I would remember that. I never closed a door behind anybody ever.”
Under similarly rapid cross-examination by prosecutor Meghan Hast, Salinas acknowledged that she had initially told investigators last year that it was “possible” Young and Weinstein ended up together in the bathroom — and that she couldn’t recall much about that night — but insisted that if it did happen she wasn’t there.
“What’s true is that I wasn’t there in a bathroom scenario,” Salinas said. “It could have happened, but it didn’t mean I was there.”
She also acknowledged that she was something of a conduit between Weinstein and her physically attractive young friends.
“Did you introduce other women to Harvey Weinstein?” Hast asked.
“I didn’t introduce other women … he met some of my friends because I would always come with a friend,” Salinas replied. “Harvey was always asking me to bring my better-looking friends.”
Salinas was pressed repeatedly on the point by a relentless prosecutor who kept asking, “But you did always bring your better-looking friends to … Harvey Weinstein?”
The witness finally took a breath, looked Hast straight in the eye, and generated laughter across the courtroom when she calmly volunteered her answer.
Several more defense witnesses are expected to testify on Tuesday before the defense rests its case. Closing arguments could be completed by the end of the week.
If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault and is seeking resources, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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