Two women took the stand Monday as defense witnesses in Harvey Weinstein’s rape and sexual-assault trial, as his legal team tries to undermine the allegations by two accusers, Jessica Mann and Lauren Young.
Mann claimed that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in early 2013 at a Beverly Hills hotel and alleged that he raped her at a Midtown East hotel around mid-March of that year. She also claimed that Weinstein raped her in California once more around fall 2013. The disgraced movie mogul is only charged with the alleged Manhattan incident.
Lauren Young alleged that seven years ago, Weinstein trapped her in the bathroom of a Beverly Hills hotel suite, masturbating as he grabbed her breast. Weinstein is charged in Los Angeles with that alleged assault.
The reason defense lawyers called two women, actress Talita Maia and Claudia Salinas, is because Mann and Young alleged they were around during their respective assaults. Mann said that Talita was outside the bedroom when Weinstein committed sexual assault at the California hotel; Young said that Salinas stood outside the bathroom door during her alleged assault. Both women are testifying because of subpoenas. Young had testified that Salinas was a former Miss New Mexico, but Salinas denied that outside of court.
When Maia took the stand this morning, she smiled at Weinstein.
Maia, an actress, described Mann’s relationship with Weinstein as amicable. When they all met at a party around early 2013, Maia said she and Mann didn’t know who he was.
“Well, then I realized I had to introduce them, and I didn’t know who he was,” Maia said. “So he said ‘Harvey Weinstein.’ I think he realized that we didn’t know who he was, so he repeated himself, “I’m Harvey from the Weinstein Company. I made a joke, ‘That’s why everyone is being so nice to you.’ Jessica put her arm around him and pinched his cheek and said, ‘It’s because he’s so cute!’”
Mann once told Maia “she sang for him” at a meeting and “was very happy.”
During the night of the alleged forced oral sex, Maia said she was uncomfortable when they asked her to join them upstairs since the bar where they met was closing.
“If I stayed in the lobby, I would have looked like a hooker,” she said of her decision to go to the hotel suite. Mann and Weinstein went into a room while she watched TV. They came out of the room after ten minutes. Maia said that Mann “seemed normal.”
Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi tried to get Maia to say that she didn’t like Mann.
“Jessica did things in my life that impacted my life in a very negative way, in a terrible way, and I wish I didn’t have to go through that,” Maia said. “I don’t hate her or anything like that.”
Through questioning, Illuzzi got Maia to reveal that she sent Weinstein a “save the date” to her wedding.
Mann allegedly told Maia that “if [Weinstein]’s avail he’s going to come as my date.”
Maia said that Mann and Weinstein were romantically involved.
“She said a few times that he was, like, her spiritual soul mate.”
Salinas, who said she was employed as an “influencer,” took the stand after Maia.
“I’m going to cut right to it: Did you ever see Harvey Weinstein coming out of a bathroom suite naked?” asked Weinstein attorney Damon Cheronis.
“Ever seen him naked under any circumstance? “
“Did you ever lock Lauren Young in a bathroom with Harvey Weinstein?”
During cross-examination, prosecutor Meghan Hast tried to undermine Salinas’s credibility, pointing out that her answers didn’t jibe with things she previously told investigators.
“I just remember that we met,” Salinas said. “I don’t remember specifics. I remember we met for a drink.”
Hast also asked Salinas about a comment to investigators: “It could have happened.”
Salinas said that “it could have happened” but that that didn’t mean she was present.
Hast also asked Salinas about her comments to investigators that “Harvey Weinstein was always asking me to bring my better-looking friends” to events.
Hast suggested through her questioning that Salinas brought friends along because she had rejected Weinstein.
“And off of that, you started to bring your pretty, better-looking friends?” Hast asked.
“Objection!” one of Weinstein’s lawyers said. One of the women in a row reserved for Weinstein’s team made a “mm-mm” sound of disapproval.
“You did bring better-looking friends?” Hast asked.
“All my friends are good-looking,” Salinas said, prompting laughs.
The defense is expected to call additional witnesses on Tuesday. Closing arguments are expected to take place this week.
Update, February 24: Harvey Weinstein’s verdict has been announced.