Defence rests without Harvey Weinstein testifying at rape trial

The defence rested its case Tuesday in Harvey Weinstein's rape trial, relying on just a few witnesses to supplement aggressive cross-examination as they aimed to undercut his accusers, all while keeping the disgraced Hollywood producer off the witness stand.

High-profile New York trial has moved much more quickly than expected

The defence rested its case on Tuesday, without Harvey Weinstein testifying at his rape trial. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

The defence rested its case Tuesday in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein.

Weistein did not testify, setting the stage for closing arguments in a landmark #MeToo trial punctuated by graphic testimony from six of the disgraced Hollywood mogul's alleged victims.

As expected, Weinstein chose not to take the witness stand in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, avoiding the risk of having prosecutors grill him on cross-examination.

He confirmed the decision in open court after meeting behind closed doors with his lawyers for half an hour as speculation swirled that they still hadn't talked him out of it.

Justice James Burke, after learning about the decision, asked Weinstein if he was sure that's what he wanted.

"Yes," Weinstein responded.

Following a court holiday on Wednesday, jurors are expected to hear defence closing arguments Thursday followed by the prosecution Friday. Jury deliberations are slated to start Tuesday.

By not testifying, Weinstein followed the example of defendants in other high-profile sex crime cases, including Bill Cosby, who didn't take the witness stand either time he was tried for drugging and molesting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home. After a mistrial in 2017, a second trial resulted in the comedian's conviction.

Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex in 2006 on a different woman — film and TV production assistant Mimi Haley. Other accusers were called as witnesses as part of an effort to show a pattern of behaviour of victimizing many women over the years.

Weinstein has maintained any sexual encounters were consensual.

The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of people who allege sexual assault without their consent. It is withholding the name of the woman accusing Weinstein of raping her in 2013 because it isn't clear if she wishes to be identified publicly.

Defence attempts to cast doubt on accusers

The defence case mainly relied on the testimony of three witnesses whom Weinstein's lawyers used to try to cast doubt on the accounts of two of the accusers.

Talita Maia, a former roommate of the woman who alleged Weinstein raped her, told the jury the woman never gave any indication that he victimized her — in fact, just the opposite.

"She spoke highly of him," Maia said. "She seemed to really like him as a person. She would only compliment him."

Talita Maia, a former roommate of the woman Weinstein is on trial for allegedly raping, testified in State Supreme Court in Manhattan for the defence on Monday. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)

Maia also gave a description of how the then-aspiring actress and Weinstein first met at a Hollywood party a few months before the alleged rape. She said when the woman figured out he was an industry big shot, she "made a joke" and said "that's why everyone is being so nice to you."

Her roommate at the time, she said, went even further: "She put her arm around Harvey and pinched his cheeks and said, 'No, it's because he is so cute."'

Another friend of the woman testified Tuesday that she seemed like "her everyday self" when they met up for breakfast with Weinstein soon after the alleged assault in March 2013.

Thomas Richards, a Hollywood talent agent, testified Wednesday the woman was friendly toward Weinstein during the breakfast and didn't say or do anything to indicate she had been raped.

Claudia Salinas also testified for the defence on Monday. The Mexican model and actress denies the claim from a Weinstein accuser that she stood by and did nothing while he groped the woman in a Beverly Hills hotel in 2013. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

The third witness, Mexican model and actress Claudia Salinas, repudiated the testimony of Lauren Marie Young, one of the women called by the prosecution to bolster the allegations of Weinstein's main accusers.

Asked about Young's claims that Salinas stood by and did nothing while Weinstein groped her at a Beverly Hills hotel in 2013, Salinas responded that it "never happened." 

Young had testified that Salinas closed the door behind her and Weinstein as they went into the bathroom, where she alleges he stripped off his clothes, grabbed her breast and masturbated.  Once it was over, Young said she found Salinas standing outside the bathroom and shot her an evil look before leaving as quickly as she could.

"If I had done that, I would remember that," Salinas testified. "I would never close the door on anybody."