Key Harvey Weinstein witness denies accuser’s claim as trial draws to close

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Mexican model Claudia Salinas flatly denies closing door of hotel bathroom on mogul and Lauren Young in 2013

Ed Pilkington in New York and agencies –   The  Guardian

Film producer Harvey Weinstein attends his trial at New York criminal court in Manhattan. Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

A key witness for the defence at Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial denied she enabled the movie producer to sexually assault an aspiring actor in a bathroom at a Beverly Hills hotel in 2013.

Claudia Salinas, a Mexican model and dancer who has appeared in films produced by Weinstein’s companies, flatly denied having closed the door of the bathroom in Weinstein’s hotel room while he was in it with Lauren Young, one of six women in the trial to accuse him of sexually attacking them.

“If I had done that I would have remembered that – I have never done that at any time,” Salinas said.

Asked by one of Weinstein’s lawyers if she had ever seen the movie mogul running out of a bathroom “completely naked”, she replied: “No, never.”

The defendant smiled and shook his head.

The trial is drawing to a close. The prosecution is expected to make closing arguments by the end of the week and then the jury will be sent out.

Salinas’s testimony was one of the most poignant moments so far. Last week, court 99 of the New York supreme court heard an heard an account from Young, 30, a model from Pennsylvania.

She is one of three witnesses called by prosecutors to show a pattern of so-called “prior bad acts” committed by Weinstein over many years. More than 80 women have accused the film producer, 67, of sexual misconduct. Facing life in prison, he has denied all five counts against him – two of rape, one of forcible oral sex and two of predatory sexual assault.

Young said she met Weinstein and Salinas, an acquaintance, in the Montage hotel on 19 February 2013. They talked about her possibly having a role on the TV show America’s Next Top Model, she said, before Weinstein took them up to his room.

Young was shown photographs of the front door of Weinstein’s suite as well as its interior and testified she was led, the producer in front, Salinas behind, to the bathroom. There, the witness said, she was trapped after Salinas closed the door. Weinstein proceeded to pull down her dress, grope her breast and ejaculate in front of her, she said.

Salinas told the jury she did not recognise the photographs of Weinstein’s suite and had not closed the door of the bathroom on him and Young.

“I would never close the door on anybody, ever,” she said.

The jury heard from a prosecutor, Meghan Hast, that in initial discussions with the New York district attorney Salinas admitted she couldn’t remember what happened at the Montage.

“Do you remember telling us, ‘It’s possible that we went up to his room because Harvey Weinstein would always get people up to his room at the Montage’?” Hast said.

“I don’t remember saying that,” Salinas replied.

“Do you remember telling us, ‘I don’t remember being up in the bathroom but I’m not saying it isn’t true’?” Hast said.

“What’s true is I wasn’t there,” the witness said.

Hast asked Salinas if she was unable to admit closing the door because to do so would be bad for her career in the entertainment industry. Salinas denied that.

The prosecutor went on to ask Salinas directly whether, acting on Weinstein’s behalf, she tried to prevent Young from speaking out: “Isn’t it true that you stayed in touch with Lauren Young to make sure she stayed quiet?”

“Absolutely not,” Salinas fired back.

Weinstein’s lawyers also called a friend of the woman he is charged with raping, who the Guardian is not naming as she has not indicated publicly if she is happy to be identified.

Talita Maia, a Brazilian actor, lived with the woman in LA and was on the March 2013 trip to New York during which the woman alleges Weinstein raped her at a hotel. Maia told jurors the woman spoke highly of Weinstein and once called him her “spiritual soulmate”.

The accuser testified last week that she didn’t tell anybody what happened but was “pretty shut down” at breakfast after the alleged rape.

“Did she seem like herself to you?” Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno asked.

“Yes,” Maia said.

Maia said she was testifying in response to a subpoena, telling jurors: “I don’t want to be here at all.” She said the two women fell out in 2016 but added: “I don’t hate her or anything like that.”

Maia said she and the woman met Weinstein at a Hollywood party a few months before the alleged rape and she believed the woman and Weinstein had been in a relationship and had stayed friends.

Maia said when she found out Weinstein was a producer she teased him, saying: “That’s why everybody is being so nice to you.” Maia said the woman she was summoned to testify about put her arm round Weinstein and said: “No. It’s because he’s so cute.”

Prosecutors rested their case last Thursday after jurors heard from women accusing Weinstein of sexual assault including the alleged rape victim and the actor Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein raped her in her home in the early 1990s.

Weinstein’s team began by calling Paul Feldsher, a close friend of Sciorra around that time. He testified that Sciorra told him she had done a “crazy thing with Harvey”, which he understood to mean a sexual encounter, and gave no indication it was non-consensual.

Feldsher appeared surprised when a prosecutor presented texts he had sent Weinstein since October 2017, in which he promised the former producer his loyalty and disparaged Sciorra and other accusers as a “dog pile of actresses”.

On Monday, Weinstein’s lawyers started by calling the longtime manager of an apartment building where Sciorra alleges he raped her. Nelson Lopez testified that he remembers Sciorra living there for about a year. She never complained about anyone being allowed up to her apartment without permission, he said.

 

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