In Harvey Weinstein trial, witness contests account of assault: ‘That never happened’
A witness in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial Monday emphatically denied helping facilitate an alleged assault between the fallen Hollywood mogul and accuser Lauren Young.
Under a fiery cross-examination by the prosecution, however, Claudia Salinas said her memory of the encounter between Weinstein and Young was patchy.
Last week, Young testified that she had been living in Los Angeles for two years when she first met Weinstein in February 2013 in the restaurant of the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, a meeting allegedly set up by Salinas.
The premise of the meeting, Young said, was to talk about her unfinished script. Weinstein, Salinas and Young talked briefly at the restaurant over drinks, Young said. Then, she alleges, Weinstein told both women that he needed to go up to his room because he had to prepare to accept an award later that night, and he invited them to join him.
Young said that once they entered Weinstein’s hotel room, the producer led her into a bathroom, with Salinas behind her. She then said Salinas trapped her in the bathroom while Weinstein groped her and masturbated.
During rapid-fire questioning by defense attorney Damon Cheronis, Salinas denied going to Weinstein’s suite that night with Young.
“Do you ever recall following Lauren Young into that suite?” Cheronis asked.
“That never happened,” Salinas said, calling the evening “uneventful.”
But during cross-examination, Salinas acknowledged that she previously told investigators that she wasn’t sure whether Young went to Weinstein’s room that night.
“I remember meeting for a drink,” Salinas told the jury. “I’ve always remembered meeting for a drink. That’s all I remember.”
During cross-examination, prosecutor Meghan Hast called attention to inconsistencies between what Salinas told investigators in 2019 and what she told jurors Monday.
According to transcripts from an interview with investigators, Salinas said she didn’t remember such an encounter in a hotel suite, but that it “could have happened.”
In court Monday, Salinas clarified: “I meant that if it happened, I most certainly wasn’t there.”
Young, a Pennsylvania native who was 22 at the time of the alleged 2013 attack, was the last of six women to testify against Weinstein in Manhattan, where he faces five counts of sexual assault and life in prison if convicted.
Young, now 30, is also one of two women whose allegations led Los Angeles County prosecutors to file nine charges of rape and sexual misconduct against Weinstein in early January.
In Los Angeles County, the accusations made by Young and an Italian model led prosecutors to charge Weinstein with forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint on the eve of his New York trial. He faces up to 28 years in state prison if convicted of all counts in California.
In her testimony, Young recalled a moment during the alleged assault when she realized the encounter may have been planned. “I realized this was set up, she put me in here,” Young said.
Salinas said Weinstein never asked her to bring Young specifically to the hotel meeting.
When questioned by Hast, Salinas said she did remember the mogul prohibiting her from inviting someone other than Young to a later party.
“You were upset by that?” Hast asked.
“I was,” Salinas said.
Salinas said Weinstein usually asked her to bring her “good-looking friends” to parties he invited her to. She told investigators in 2019 that Weinstein could be a bully, and that “at times, he wasn’t nice to me.”
“When you talked to the D.A., do you remember telling [them] that he was not very ethical?” Hast asked.
“I may have used those words, but I didn’t mean it literally,” Salinas said, adding, “Mr. Weinstein had to have his way.”
Salinas, who now works primarily as a social media influencer in Los Angeles, testified that she met Weinstein when she was 19 and the producer was around 50. She never had a romantic or sexual relationship with Weinstein, she said, but during that first meeting he was “flirtatious.”
Weinstein later helped Salinas secure a small role in the 2004 movie “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.”
“Was he inappropriate with you?” Cheronis asked.
“Never,” Salinas said.
Salinas said she had been in Weinstein’s hotel suites in Los Angeles on several occasions, as he often used those rooms as a “mobile office,” but had never been alone with him in that setting.
“There were always people around,” she said. “Hotel staff, assistants, other people taking meetings.”
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