'Never happened': Model denies trapping Harvey Weinstein's rape accuser
Warning: This story contains details of an alleged sexual assault
In the strongest defence testimony yet, a Mexican model and actress denied a Harvey Weinstein accuser's claim that she stood by and did nothing while the once-powerful movie mogul groped her in a Beverly Hills hotel in 2013.
"Never happened," Claudia Salinas told jurors Monday at Weinstein's rape trial in New York City.
Testifying last week, model Lauren Marie Young said Salinas closed the door behind her and Weinstein as they went into the bathroom, where she said he stripped off his clothes, grabbed her breast and masturbated. Young said Salinas "was standing right there" when Weinstein was finished and she managed to get out.
"If I had done that, I would remember that," Salinas testified. "I would never close the door on anybody."
Salinas, now 38 and working as a social media influencer, took the witness stand as the defence called witnesses for a third day after more than two weeks of prosecution testimony. She said she met Weinstein in 2012 while an aspiring actress and never had a romantic relationship with him, adding that he had a "very strong personality" and "at times, he wasn't nice to me."
Among the prosecution witnesses were six women, including Young, who say the once-powerful Hollywood boss subjected them to vile sexual behaviour.
Weinstein is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on a different woman in 2006, but other accusers such as Young were called as witnesses as part of a prosecution effort to show he has used the same tactics to victimize many women over the years.
Young's allegations were included in criminal charges filed against Weinstein in California on Jan. 6, just as his New York case was starting.
The 67-year-old Weinstein has maintained any sexual encounters were consensual.
Salinas disputed other parts of Young's account, saying that while they did meet up at the hotel bar the night of the alleged assault, it wasn't because Weinstein wanted to see her. She also said she didn't recognize the hotel suite and didn't remember following along as Weinstein sought to continue the conversation in his room while he got ready for an awards presentation, as Young alleged.
Asked on cross-examination if she told investigators last year that it was possible Weinstein took Young to the room, Salinas replied: "What's true is that I wasn't there in a bathroom scenario. It could have happened, but it didn't mean I was there."
'I don't want to be here at all'
Jurors also heard Monday from the former roommate of the woman Weinstein is on trial for allegedly raping. Talita Maia said that the woman spoke highly of Weinstein and once called him her "spiritual soulmate."
Maia, a Brazilian actress who lived with the woman in the Los Angeles area, was with her on the New York trip and said nothing seemed amiss when they met Weinstein for breakfast after the alleged rape.
The accuser testified last week that she didn't tell anybody what happened but was "pretty shut down" at breakfast.
"Did she seem like herself to you?" Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno asked.
"Yes," Maia responded.
Maia said she was testifying in response to a defence subpoena, telling jurors: "I don't want to be here at all."
On cross-examination, she testified the two women had a falling out in 2016, but added, "I don't hate her or anything like that."
The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of sexual assault accusers without their consent. It is withholding name of the rape accuser because it isn't clear if she wishes to be identified publicly.
Maia said she and the woman met Weinstein at a Hollywood party a few months before the alleged rape and that she believed the woman and Weinstein were in a relationship at some point and had stayed friends afterward.
Maia said she initially didn't know who Weinstein was, but once she found out he was a Hollywood bigshot, she teased him by saying "that's why everybody is being so nice to you."
Maia said the woman she was summoned to testify about put her arm around Weinstein and said: "No. It's because he's so cute."