Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Molly Crane-Newman and Larry McShane

Prosecution rests case against Harvey Weinstein, with first defense witness insisting defendant is innocent man

NEW YORK _ There's at least one person out there who believes in Harvey Weinstein's innocence.

A longtime pal of the accused sexual predator, while acknowledging he wouldn't necessarily want his own daughter dating the Oscar winner, took the stand Thursday to defend his old friend against allegations of rape and sexual abuse that could land Weinstein behind bars for life.

"I do not believe he was capable of the things he's been charged with," testified Paul Feldsher, the first witness called for the defense. "Until he is found guilty by a jury of his peers I will stand by his innocence."

Under cross-examination, Feldsher acknowledged describing Weinstein's alleged '90s rape of actress Annabella Sciorra in a text message to the porcine producer as "an awkward whatever the f _ k" and also texting that "The Sopranos" Emmy winner was an "a _ hole" and "full of s _ t."

Feldsher, who testified that he was once friendly with Sciorra as well, also verified sending Weinstein a text reading "If a lot of these girls had been my daughter I'd want to beat the s _ t out of you."

More than 90 women, including a half-dozen called at this Manhattan trial, accused Weinstein of improper sexual behavior ranging from the crude to the criminal.

Manhattan prosecutors wrapped up their two-week case earlier Thursday, with the jury of seven men and five women hearing lurid allegations of rape and sexual assault from the six witnesses.

"The people rest," said Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi at 11:15 a.m. after calling the last of her 27 witnesses in a trial that began with opening statements on Jan. 22.

Weinstein's high-powered defense team, led by Donna Rotunno, started its defense by calling for a dismissal of the charges Thursday. The request was quickly rejected by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James Burke.

The prosecution's hopes hang on the damning testimony of the accusers who testified under oath about Weinstein's alleged sexual attacks, beginning with the appearance of Sciorra and ending with the account of fellow accuser Lauren Marie Young.

Sciorra, who made waves early in her career in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" and the creepy "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle," told the jury that the hulking Weinstein raped her inside her Manhattan apartment a quarter-century ago after the two went out for dinner.

She recounted how Weinstein pinned her arms above her head and had intercourse with her.

Young recounted a bizarre hotel bathroom encounter in 2013 where Weinstein groped her breast while masturbating after she was invited to discuss a script with the moviemaker.

Accusers Mimi Haley and Jessica Mann were at the heart of the case against Weinstein, who faces a sentence of life in prison if convicted of the top charges in his five-count indictment. The 67-year-old producer sat quietly at the defense table as the parade of prosecution witnesses took the stand against him.

Feldsher, during his testimony, dismissed the flood of horrific allegations across the decades from dozens of women against Weinstein.

"I think the dogpile of actresses who are suddenly brave in recalling repressed memories is hideous," he testified.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.