A social media influencer and former acquaintance of Harvey Weinstein testified Wednesday that a woman’s account of an alleged 2013 assault by Weinstein is false. She took the stand amid a legal debate over the admissibility of her own alleged encounter with the now-disgraced movie producer.
Claudia Salinas said she has never been inside a hotel bathroom with Weinstein or the woman identified in his Los Angeles criminal case as Jane Doe 2. She also answered “absolutely not” when asked by Weinstein’s lawyer if she ever “stood outside a bathroom while Mr. Weinstein raped…someone inside?”
“Were you in the business of procuring women for Mr. Weinstein to have sex with?” Mark Werksman asked.
“Absolutely not,” Salinas answered.
“Did you act as a pimp for Mr. Weinstein?” Werksman asked.
“No,” Salinas answered, laughing slightly.
The testimony contradicts Jane Doe 2’s testimony that Salinas helped arrange a meeting at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills in February 2013 that ended with Weinstein groping Jane Doe 2 while masturbating in a bathroom.
Salinas acknowledged meeting Jane Doe 2 and Weinstein for drinks in the Montage lobby, but she said she didn’t arrange the meeting and never spoke with Jane Doe 2 about screenwriting or her ability to get Weinstein to look at a script.
Jane Doe 2 testified to feeling betrayed by Salinas after the assault, so much so that she told her, “Don’t you even fucking look at me” during a meeting the next day. But Salinas said Wednesday that it never happened. Werksman displayed an email between Weinstein and Salinas, in which Salinas said Jane Doe 2 had a modeling job until 8 p.m. but was free later. Asked how she would know this, Salinas said they obviously were talking despite Jane Doe 2 now claiming to have told Salinas not to look at her.
“We kept talking after that day,” Salinas testified Wednesday.
Both Salinas and Jane Doe 2 testified in Weinstein’s New York trial, which ended in January 2020 with convictions for first-degree sexual assault and third-degree rape that the state’s highest court agreed in August to review.
The 70-year-old former one-man Hollywood powerhouse is currently housed in Los Angeles’s for his 23-year sentence out of New York, with the charges in Los Angeles County carrying much more time if he’s convicted. Prosecutors originally announced 11 charges involving five women, but the fifth woman was not mentioned in opening statements and appears to have been removed as a prosecution witness.
Salinas told The Daily Beast that Jane Doe 2’s accusations against Weinstein are “fiction.” Outside the jury, prosecutors have raised issues about her credibility as a neutral witness given a Weinstein accuser’s claim that she once saw Salinas performing oral sex on Weinstein.
According to discussions outside the jury, a prior bad acts witness has been said to testify to seeing fellatio between Salinas and Weinstein and turning down an offer for a threesome.
Prosecutors wanted to bring it up in trial, with Werksman telling Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench in an Oct. 14 pre-trial conference, “This is an unconscionable smear campaign by the prosecution against the witness, Claudia Salinas.”
But the prior bad acts witness was allowed to testify about it in Weinstein’s New York trial, and prosecutors wanted to bring it into their trial to contradict Salinas’ claims that her relationship with Weinstein was professional. Lench said Oct. 14 that she wanted to hear Salinas’ testimony before deciding, then she emphasized Wednesday it won’t be allowed.
Salinas is the second Weinstein associate to be implicated in testimony about an alleged assault by Weinstein, with a prior bad acts witness describing how assistant Bonnie Hung basically set her up to be assaulted in Puerto Rico in 2003 filming Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.
Hung testified last week, denying any memory of meeting the woman or of anything related to the alleged assault. Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson’s exam of Salinas was much more aggressive, as Salinas flat denied the events described by Jane Doe 2 and at times took a combative tone.
“I have no recollection of meeting her in Puerto Rico,” Bonnie Hung testified today.
“I don’t recall going to the hotel.”
Through she did say under further questioning: “It is possible. I just don’t remember.”
— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) November 5, 2022
Salinas was never an official assistant for Weinstein, instead testifying that she met Weinstein in New York in 2003 while dining at the upscale Italian restaurant Cipriani with her mother, who knew someone at his table. She was in Puerto Rico for Dirty Dancing Havana Nights — she’s in two scenes in the movie — but she said she never left a dinner with him as the prior bad acts witness testified she did. And she said she didn’t recognize a photo of the woman.
Born and raised in Mexico, Salinas moved to New York City in 2003 at the age of 19 and attended the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute as a professional ballerina. She was in three movies produced by Weinstein’s companies, and she said regularly attended movie premieres, parties and awards shows such as the Oscars and Emmys.
Salinas said he was the most powerful person she knew in the entertainment industry in 2003, but she described him as “one of the most” in 2012 and answered, “I don’t know, I know a lot of people” when Thompson pressed her. Thompson asked if she got credit on social media for photos at parties, but she said she didn’t become a social media influencer until about 2016.
She testified that Weinstein had invited her to meet for a drink when he was in the Los Angeles area in February 2013, so she took Jane Doe 3 with her because “I always bring someone with me, because I don’t like to go alone.” The two were friends on and off Facebook, with Salinas describing Jane Doe 2 on Wednesday as “a nice girl that I met, I thought it would be a nice gesture to reconnect.”
Thompson pressed Salinas about an email between her, Jane Doe 2 and Barbara Schneeweis, who headed reality TV for the Weinstein Co. Salinas acknowledged there appears to have been a meeting but said she doesn’t remember it.
“I’m not asking you this sarcastically, is there something wrong with your memory?” Thompson asked.
“No, there’s nothing wrong with my memory,” Salinas answered.
“Was it common for you to meet with executive staff at the Weinstein Co.?” Thompson asked.
“I have a lot of meetings,” Salinas answered.
Salinas eventually acknowledged that she was asked to bring Jane Doe 2 as her “plus one” to a Weinstein party, which was also said “was odd.” Still, she said, “I don’t remember going with Jane Doe 2 to that party.”
Thompson displayed other emails about possible meetings between Weinstein and Jane Doe 2, with Salinas saying she “didn’t find it unusual” that Weinstein was contacting her about meeting a woman in her early 20s.
“I really didn’t make much of it,” Salinas answered.
In cross, Salinas agreed with Werksman that despite Weinstein being in his “middle years,” it wasn’t uncommon for him to meet with young women given his work in movie casting.
After her testimony, Salinas and her lawyer went down the hallway and watched several minutes of testimony by actress Tricia Vessey, a prior bad acts accuser in That ‘70s Show actor Danny Masterson’s rape trial.
Her appearance in Weinstein’s trial was followed by recorded video testimony from Pascal Vicedomini, who founded the L.A. Italia Film Festival.
Weinstein was in the Los Angeles area for the festival in February 2013 when he’s accused of assaulting both Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 1, but Vicedomini disputed Jane Doe 1’s testimony that she’d told him Weinstein had left his jacket in her hotel room. He also said she never gave him the jacket. He described his relationship with her in 2013 as “a very great friendship” and told Weinstein’s lawyer Alan Jackson he would never offer her to Weinstein for sexual favors.
“I would never ever in my life do or say something of that nature. I have had a relationship with Mr. Weinstein for many years … and no way in my life would I have said or thought something like that,” he said.
The approximately three-hour video finished Thursday morning, with the trial not in session Thursday afternoon. It will resume Monday at 9:30 a.m. Los Angeles, with accuser Jane Doe 4, who is California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, expected to take the stand early in the week.
(Images: Salinas photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images; Weinstein photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)
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