NEW YORK – As Hollywood recovered from a long night at the Oscars, former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein arrived in court Monday for the start of another week of his sex crimes trial focused on his defense team’s effort to cast doubt on accusers’ allegations.
Mexican actress and model Claudia Salinas, 38, took the stand for the defense and denied she went to a Beverly Hills hotel room with Weinstein and accuser Lauren Young. Young testified last week for the prosecution, describing Salinas as an enabler to Weinstein’s alleged sexual assault of Young in a Montage hotel bathroom in February 2013.
“That never happened,” Salinas said under questioning from defense attorney Damon Cheronis.
Young said Weinstein led her into the bathroom and Salinas closed the door, leaving her “trapped” as Weinstein allegedly fondled her while masturbating. Young testified she believed Salinas helped set up the encounter:
“She put me in here,” she told the jury. Young said she shot Salinas “an evil look” after leaving the bathroom and left the hotel suite without saying anything.
When Salinas was shown pictures of the hotel suite, she said she never went there.
“Do you ever recall following Lauren Young down that hallway with Mr. Weinstein in front of her?” she was asked. No, Salinas said, denying she closed a bathroom door on Young and Weinstein.
“Because if I had done that, I would remember that,” Salinas testified. “I would never close the door on anybody, ever.”
She said Weinstein used hotel rooms almost as “a mobile office,” so there were always other people around, but she said she was never alone in a hotel room with Weinstein and Young.
On cross-examination, Salinas, who was in a 2009 Weinstein-produced film called “Crossing Over” with Harrison Ford, said she was not afraid of Weinstein though he could be a bully. She said she became frustrated because she wasn’t getting any career help from him.
“Mr. Weinstein did have to have his way,” she said. “He was a very strong personality person. At times, he wasn’t nice to me. He never helped me with anything in my career. … He was a little bit of a bully, business-wise.”
Salinas said she didn’t know Young accused her of helping Weinstein assault her until a defense investigator told her in August 2019.
“Yes, I denied it. (Prosecutors) never told me what she saying,” Salinas said. She said she didn’t know whether the assault described by Young happened, but if it did, “I most certainly wasn’t there because I never saw that happen.”
Salinas’ testimony evoked laughter in the courtroom at one point, when she described Weinstein’s comment to her to “bring all your good-looking friends” to parties he invited her to. Did she do so, she was asked.
“All my friends are good-looking!” she replied. She said he was “flirtatious” with her but she told him she wasn’t interested. She said she never had a romantic relationship with him and he was never “inappropriate” with her.
Earlier, Brazilian actress Talita Maia, a friend of accuser Jessica Mann who testified last week that Weinstein raped her in a midtown Manhattan hotel room in March 2013, took the stand. Mann is one of two women whose allegations form the basis of the sex-crimes charges against Weistein.
Maia, 34, said she met Weinstein at a Hollywood party in 2012 or 2013 and introduced him to Mann, who put her arm around him, pinched his cheek and remarked that he was “so cute,” Maia said.
In February 2013, after an Oscars party, she drove Mann to the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills. She denied under questioning from defense lawyer Donna Rotunno that she urged Mann to meet Weinstein at the hotel, as Mann earlier testified. Maia said she went with Mann to Weinstein’s suite but was reluctant.
“I was just uncomfortable. I didn’t want to go up to a room with them, I didn’t know what they were going to do,” she said. “I knew Jessica was already seeing him.”
Although it was “really awkward” to be left in the living room while Weinstein and Mann disappeared into another room, she said she had “no reason to think there was going to be any harm.”
She said she saw no arguing or negotiation between Weinstein and Mann, nor did Mann seem upset later. Mann testified earlier that Weinstein assaulted her at the Montage while Maia was in the living room watching TV.
Did Mann maintain a relationship with Weinstein after that? “Yes,” Maia responded.
In March 2013, she met Mann and Weinstein at the DoubleTree Hotel in Manhattan for breakfast. She went up to Mann’s room with her before she checked out. According to Mann, Weinstein raped her in his room at the hotel earlier that morning.
“Did she say anything bad had happened with Harvey earlier that morning?” Rotunno asked. “I don’t recall,” Maia said.
“Did she seem upset at all?” Rotunno asked. “No,” Maia said.
Maia said she was Mann’s roommate for about six months in Los Angeles and stayed friends until 2016 or 2017, when they had a falling out.
“Did she ever tell you that Harvey Weinstein hurt her? That he raped her? Forced her to do anything against her will?” Rotunno asked.
“No, she always spoke highly of him. She seemed to really like him as a person,” Maia said.
Under cross-examination by Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi, Maia denied she disliked Mann.
“Jessica did things in my life that impacted my life in a negative way, but I don’t hate her, ” she said.
Maia said Mann several times described Weinstein as “her spiritual soulmate.”
“Did she ever say she was romantically interested in Harvey Weinstein?” Illuzzi asked.
“It seemed like it. She was always going to see him,” Maia said.
But Mann was once “very upset” during a phone conversation when she told Maia that Weinstein wanted her to “do something” with another woman, an Italian actress, Maia said. She said Mann met the woman that day.
“You have to understand the context. Jessica was curious about girls,” Maia testified. “When she met (the Italian actress), she said she was gorgeous, and from what I understand, she panicked and just couldn’t go through. It never seemed like it had anything to do with Harvey.”
Judge James Burke said he expected witness testimony in the case to conclude by Thursday morning, with closing arguments by both sides on Thursday afternoon and on Friday. Weinstein lawyers said the defense is planning to call about five more witnesses, and may rest its case Tuesday.
Weinstein’s lawyers have said they also plan to call another friend of accuser Mann, a Hollywood talent agent who also was on the March 2013 trip to New York where Mann alleges Weinstein raped her at hotel.
On Friday, the defense called Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist and professor at the University of California at Irvine whose specialty is research on the fallibility of human memory. She testified that human memory weakens over time – even as little as five years – and becomes more susceptible to “rich false memories” that feel as strong as “true” memories.
Last week on Thursday, the prosecution rested its case against the 67-year-old. He has pleaded not guilty and denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.