"That Never Happened": Key Defense Witnesses Challenge Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers

Social media influencer Claudia Salinas denied the sworn claims of alleged victim Lauren Young, and actress Talita Maia pushed back on comments made by her one-time friend Jessica Mann.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images; Michael Tullberg/Getty Images
Claudia Salinas (left), Talita Maia

Harvey Weinstein's defense team on Monday scored seemingly direct hits on the prosecution's case against him as two key witnesses challenged the claims made by two of his main accusers.

The day began with the testimony of Nelson Lopez, who served as building manager for actress Annabella Sciorra's Gramercy Park apartment building in the winter of 1993, when she claims that Weinstein raped her. He pushed back on the prosecution's suggestion that Weinstein could have gotten past the two doormen guarding the building and made his way to Sciorra's apartment without being stopped.

Lopez was followed by a far more significant witness, actress Talita Maia, who testified regarding the account of her former friend and roommate Jessica Mann. Mann, whose accusations are part of the indictment against Weinstein, previously testified that Maia was present — in the other room of a hotel suite — when she says that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her without her consent.

While Mann and Weinstein were in the other room, Maia sat on a couch watching television. The pair exited after about 10 minutes, she said.

"Did you hear any arguing?" Weinstein's lawyer asked. "No," Maia replied. "Did your friend ever ask you for any help?" "No." "Did she seem upset in any way?" "No."

On the drive home, Maia said that Mann "seemed OK" and "normal." Later, after Mann claims that Weinstein raped her in the room of a DoubleTree Hotel in Manhattan, Maia said that Mann behaved normally and seemed like herself — "nothing that stood out to me."

Generally speaking, Mann "spoke highly" of Weinstein, Maia testified on Monday: "She seemed to really like him as a person. ... She said a few times that he was like her spiritual soulmate. She would say that he’s a wonderful person. ... She was always saying good things about him. She never said anything bad."

But Maia did acknowledge that Mann "didn't want to say 'no' to him," and that she was uncomfortable about participating in a threesome with Weinstein and an Italian actress.

Under cross-examination, lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi suggested that Maia is now biased against her former friend. "In fact, you guys had a very, very bitter falling out, and, in fact, you very much dislike Jessica Mann, is that right?" she asked.

The most explosive witness of the day was Mexican social media influencer Claudia Salinas. Lauren Young, one of six accusers who has testified during the trial that Weinstein sexually assaulted her, told jurors on Wednesday that Salinas waited outside a hotel bathroom while Weinstein groped her and masturbated. Young testified that she shot Salinas a dirty look as she exited the bathroom, trailing the nude Weinstein.

"Absolutely not," Salinas said when asked by Weinstein's lawyer if that happened. "That never happened. ... I'm very sure."

Asked specifically about closing the bathroom door behind Weinstein and Young, as Young had testified, Salinas said: "If I had done that, I would have remembered. I have never closed the door behind anybody, ever."

Salinas also denied Young's contention that she had encouraged the model to bring a script to the Montage Beverly Hills hotel to show it to Weinstein.

On cross-examination, assistant district attorney Meghan Hast challenged Salinas' previous statements to investigators and prosecutors about the alleged incident. "Isn’t it true that you told us that you had zero recollection of what happened when you met with Harvey Weinstein and Lauren Young?" Hast pressed. "Isn’t it true that on July 19th that you told [investigators] you didn’t remember anything about what happened when you met with Lauren Young and Harvey Weinstein — when you met with them in February 2013?"

Salinas, who seemingly grew frustrated during parts of her questioning, said, "I always remember meeting for a drink. That's all I remember."

Maia and Salinas both testified on Monday after been subpoenaed, and both made it clear that they didn't want to testify.

Weinstein's defense team is expected to call a few more witnesses on Tuesday, and could then possibly rest their case. Court is not in session on Wednesday, due to a holiday.