1:15pm PT by Jeremy Barr
Producer Testifies for Harvey Weinstein’s Defense: "I Felt Badly That He Was Completely Abandoned"
On Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the prosecution rested its case against Harvey Weinstein, the former movie mogul’s defense team called Paul Feldsher as their first witness.
Feldsher, a former ICM agent who became a producer and writer, testified about his close friendship with actress Annabella Sciorra.
He recalled a long conversation he had with Sciorra back in the early 1990s, when Sciorra allegedly told him that "she’d done this crazy thing with Harvey Weinstein."
Sciorra had testified on Jan. 23 that Weinstein raped her in the winter of 1993. On Thursday, Feldsher said he couldn’t recall the details of the alleged incident, but said, "My understanding was that she fooled around with him. … If it was something of that nature, I can’t imagine I wouldn’t have pursued it."
On cross-examination, lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi played up Feldsher’s frequent communication with Weinstein over the last two years or so and got him to acknowledge that he’s been in "constant communication" with Weinstein since then.
"This was somebody I knew that was in trouble and I was speaking to him partially because nobody else was, so I was talking to him," Feldsher said. "I felt badly that he was completely abandoned. I felt badly that it was going to be very difficult for him to get due process. … It was a horrible time for him. ... I felt that he merited compassion, like anybody does."
Feldsher said that Weinstein had a "voracious appetite" for sex and "dated a lot of women."
Illuzzi pressed him on a text message he sent to Weinstein, when he told him: “If a lot of those girls had been my daughter, I would have wanted to beat the shit out of you.”
Asked about that text message, Feldsher replied: "I was trying to be a friend and say, 'I know the extremes of your personality, the extremes of your appetite.'" He added, "I am learning a lot now, and I had no idea my text messages would end up in the courtroom."
In another message, Feldsher said that Sciorra is "full of shit," which he acknowledged in court on Thursday. Feldsher also texted Weinstein, "The rape version got her an agent at CAA, so there’s that." He also derided the "dog pile of actresses that are suddenly brave" in coming forward with allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein.
"I stand by every text that I wrote," Feldsher said.
In one email that was presented to the jury, Feldsher told Weinstein, "I am loyal to you, Harvey. I will always have your back if you call on me."
After the allegations against Weinstein became public, Feldsher told Weinstein, "Unless you make some sort of confession or are proven legally guilty, I will continue to be the controversial, inappropriate person who defends you."
Illuzzi pressed Feldsher on his loyalty to Weinstein. "Aren’t you saying things in this courtroom that Harvey Weinstein wants to hear? … You're here to protect him from the 'dog pile of actresses,' right?" she asked. "Categorically, no," he replied.