Actress and model Lauren Marie Young, who has said she was sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein after being lured to his hotel suite on the pretext of discussing a script she was writing, took the stand at Weinstein’s rape trial in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan today, with her testimony set to continue this afternoon.
Young’s allegations are included in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s case filed January 6, the day the New York trial got underway. The LA charges allege Weinstein assaulted Young and raped another woman on consecutive nights in February 2013.
Young’s case is not among those being tried in New York; she and two other women have been called to testify here in the cases of Jessica Mann and Mimi Haleyi in an effort to establish a pattern of broader conduct by Weinstein and a history of what the law considers “prior bad acts” that have relevance to the current charges.
Young, now 30 and living in Pennsylvania, began to describe her 2010 encounter with Weinstein during testimony in New York today just before the trial broke for lunch. The witness had arrived at the moment in her account when she, Weinstein and another model had moved their meeting from the bar at L.A.’s Montage Hotel to Weinstein’s suite upstairs.
In her testimony today, Young had arrived a the point in her story when she was just about to enter a bathroom where, she has said, she was locked in and groped by Weinstein as he masturbated. Young had previously said that another model – a friend of Weinstein’s that Young had only recently met – assisted the mogul in luring and trapping Young in the bathroom.
Young said today that Weinstein, though distracted on his phone while Young was discussing her unfinished script at the hotel bar, began suggesting she audition for America’s Next Top Model, and that Young and the other model should follow him to his suite of rooms to continue the discussion as he prepared for an awards event honoring Quentin Tarantino.
As Young arrived at the moment in her account when she got to the bathroom doorway, the trial broke for lunch. She will continue her testimony this afternoon, and is expected to be the prosecution’s last of three women called to support the rape allegations made by Jessica Mann and Mimi Haleyi.
Before Young began testifying today, the prosecution called Hollywood casting director Marci Liroff to the stand to recount how Weinstein accuser Mann and a friend audition for roles in the 2014 film Vampire Academy at the specific request of Weinstein – despite the fact that both women, in their late 20s, were too old and too tall for the film’s teenage vampire roles.
And, Liroff said, “they weren’t strong actresses.”
In previous testimony, Mann, who claims she was raped by Weinstein in 2013 and 2014, said that she and friend and fellow actress identified in court as “Talita” met Weinstein in 2013 at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills to follow up on Weinstein’s offer of auditions for a possible role or roles in Vampire Academy. It was at the hotel that night, Mann testified, that Weinstein first sexually assaulted her.
In a seeming attempt to indicate that Weinstein’s audition offer was, essentially, a “sham” designed to entice the women to the hotel, lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi called Liroff to the stand and questioned the casting director about whether Mann and Talita were, in fact, even appropriate for the teenage vampire role.
Both aspiring actresses were auditioned on April 15, 2013, by Liroff at the specific request of Weinstein and two of his company’s executives, despite, Liroff said, the women being wrong for the film and the fact that Weinstein was merely a distributor and so not directly involved in casting.
“The actresses they asked me to meet were two old for this role and too tall,” Liroff said, noting that the teenage vampires “couldn’t be taller than 5 foot 2.”
“Was seeing these two women for this film non-productive for you?” asked Illuzzi.
“Yes,” responded Liroff, whose long list of casting credits prior to Vampire Academy had included Mean Girls, Gothika and Pretty in Pink.
Liroff indicated that Vampire Academy producer Deepak Nayar had specifically said the Weinstein Company did not have casting rights for the film, but that they agreed to audition Mann and Talita nonetheless.
Under cross-examination by Weinstein defense attorney Donna Rotunno, Liroff conceded that cooperating with Weinstein – with whom she had never worked – was good for her casting business given the producer’s reputation and roster of award-winning films. She also acknowledged that casting directors sometimes audition actors for inappropriate roles knowing that other or future roles might make sense.
Liroff said that In this case, though, she was on a tight deadline. “And they weren’t strong actresses,” she said.
In other testimony today, a desk clerk and a security officer employed by Manhattan’s Doubletree Hotel stated that on March 18, 2013, Weinstein and Mann checked into the hotel and that a note was made on the clerk’s “shift report” that security might “want to check” on the two since the young woman – not identified by name – seemed, in the clerk’s recollection today, “discontented” at the time of check-in. The clerk also said today that, in recollection, Weinstein seemed “in a rush” to check-in, and was “looming” over the clerk and was “intimidating.”
Weinstein’s defense suggested, through questioning, that the clerk’s recollection was influenced by subsequent knowledge of the charges made against the disgraced mogul.