Talita Maia, an actress, former friend and roommate of Harvey Weinstein accuser Jessica Mann, testified Monday that at no time did Mann appear to be disturbed or upset about Weinstein, even on the night Mann alleges she was raped by the Hollywood producer while Maia was just outside his bedroom door.
And in what was another critical hit against prosecution witnesses, model and social media influencer Claudia Salinas — who Weinstein accuser Lauren Young says helped lure her to Weinstein’s hotel room and then locked her in a bathroom with the naked mogul — flatly denied the event ever happened.
“Absolutely not,” said Salinas, a social media influencer in the fashion arena. “I would never do that. I would never close the door behind anyone.” Salinas denied that she’d ever been alone with Young and Weinstein in a hotel suite, and that she had never seen Weinstein naked, contrary to Young’s testimony last week.
In what could be equally damaging testimony for the prosecution, Mann’s former friend Maia, an actress from Brazil, said she was present in Weinstein’s Montage Hotel suite, watching TV alone in the living room while Mann and Weinstein had sex in a bedroom. Mann claims she was sexually assaulted that night, while Weinstein maintains all encounters with Mann were consensual.
“They were in there 10 minutes,” Maia said today. “It wasn’t that long.” She had driven Mann and herself to the hotel bar to meet Weinstein to talk about, among other things, roles in the film Vampire Academy. As the bar was getting ready to close, Weinstein and Mann invited Maia upstairs to Weinstein’s suite.
Although she felt “awkward” accompanying the two, Maia said, she was assured by both that the invitation was safe, “casual” and “nothing to worry about.”
“I didn’t really have a way of leaving,” Maia said. “I was driving her and couldn’t wait downstairs.” She said she didn’t want to stay in the lobby alone “like a hooker.”
Maia said that when Mann and Weinstein emerged from the bedroom after 10 minutes — Maia said she waited in the living room watching TV alone — Mann appeared “normal.” As the two drove home, Mann “seemed OK,” Maia said. “She seemed normal, like nothing out of the ordinary.”
The one-two punch of today’s testimony — with two women who knew the accusers and cast serious doubt on their accusations — easily was the best day for Weinstein’s defense since the team began presenting its case late last week.
In one particularly memorable bit of testimony, Maia said Mann once described Weinstein as giving her “the best orgasm she ever had.” Maia said Mann repeatedly spoke of Weinstein favorably, once even saying that she “sang” for Weinstein in his hotel room. “She was very happy,” Maia said.
The friendship of Maia and Mann ended in 2016, which prosecutor Meghan Hast described as a “very, very bitter falling out. You very much dislike Jessica right now, correct?”
“I don’t dislike Jessica,” Maia replied. “Jessica did things in my life that impacted my life in a very negative way. I wish I didn’t have to go through that, but I don’t hate her.” Maia did not explain the “things” Mann did, but the implication was the involvement in this criminal case against Weinstein.
Maia said that throughout their four-year friendship, Mann never indicated that Weinstein hurt her in any way. “She spoke highly of him. She seemed to really like him as a person.” Although she and Mann rarely, if ever, spoke about Mann’s sexual relationship with Weinstein, Maia said, Mann “said a few times that he was her spiritual soulmate.”
Maia also disputed Mann’s testimony about an attempted threesome among Mann, Weinstein and Italian actress Emanuela Postacchini, which Mann described on the stand last week as so traumatizing that, before the sex actually began, she ran crying into the bathroom and laid on the floor in a “fetal position” while sobbing.
But Maia testified today that Mann’s discomfort wasn’t caused by pressure from Weinstein but from the same-sex aspect. Maia described Mann as “very interested in girls” but when confronted with the reality “she panicked and couldn’t go through with it.”
Following Maia’s testimony, Salinas took the stand and emphatically denied accusations made last week by Lauren Young, one of four women called by the prosecution to establish Weinstein’s predatory behavior. In a remarkably vivid account of a February 2013 encounter, Young told of joining Salinas and Weinstein at the bar of the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills to discuss scripts the women were writing and roles on America’s Next Top Model. When Salinas and Weinstein suggested continuing the get-together in Weinstein’s suite upstairs, Young said, Young followed Weinstein into what turned out to be the suite’s bathroom, with Salinas, in the hallway, shutting the door and locking Young inside.
Young said that Weinstein quickly got naked and began masturbating while grabbing and pinching her breast.
Salinas flatly denied that any of Young’s story happened. “Never happened,” she said. Shown photos of the Montage suite, Salinas said she’d never seen it before, and that she was never alone with Young and Weinstein, and had never seen Weinstein naked (Young said a nude Weinstein walked past Salinas in the hallway following the assault.)
Salinas also denied ever writing a script or being aware that Young was attempting to write one, and that, as far as she knew, Weinstein had no connection to America’s Next Top Model and never brought up the subject. (Weinstein, she said, was involved with Project Runway, but that the show was not discussed over drinks at the Montage; she described the meeting as an attempt to make professional contact with the powerful producer, and that the talk revolved mostly around that year’s Oscars, which were coming up.)
Under cross-examination, prosecutors attempted to suggest that both Maia and Salinas sided with Weinstein for professional reasons, depictions both women denied. Salinas appeared in three Miramax movies: 2004’s Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, 2008’s Hell Ride and 2009’s Crossing Over.
Later under cross-examination, Salinas disputed the portrayal of her as a needy actress, saying she was a successful model in many national ad campaigns and supported herself through that career.
Salinas, who was 19 when she met the then-50-year-old Weinstein, described the producer as flirtatious with her, but that she made clear she wasn’t interested, describing her response to him as, essentially, “f*ck off.”
When assistant D.A. Hast attempted to portray Salinas as something of a procurer of “good-looking” young women for Weinstein, Salinas said she merely invited her friends to the various parties and events to which she was invited by Weinstein.
“All my friends,” Salinas said, “are good-looking.”
As cross-examination continued after lunch, Hast launched a line of questioning about why Salinas tagged Young in two Facebook photos on the night of the alleged attack and the day after. The prosecutor asked specifically whether Salinas tagged the photos to give the appearance of continued friendship.
“Of course not,” Salinas said. “I tagged her because we had some cute photos and I wanted to put them on my Facebook.”