NEW YORK — Harvey Weinstein’s defense team called their first witness Thursday — a former producer who they say casts doubt on actress Annabella Sciorra’s alleged rape allegations.
Paul Feldsher testified that he’s known Weinstein for more than 30 years and that he’d been close friends with Sciorra in the 1990’s.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi questioned Feldsher’s credibility, pressing him on his allegiance to the disgraced Hollywood producer during the cross examination.
Feldsher testified he’s been in regular contact with Weinstein since 2017 and told Weinstein he believed in his innocence in a thread of text messages about the allegations presented to the jury.
Weinstein had a “voracious appetite for women,” Feldsher also told the jury.
In open court Feldsher said it was his understanding that “Harvey had a sex addiction and that he dated a lot of women.”
He said it was fair to call Weinstein a “sex addict.”
Feldsher, who has a 13-year-old daughter, told Weinstein in a text message, “If a lot of these girls had been my daughter, I would have wanted to beat the shit out of you.”
He had never personally witnessed Weinstein being inappropriate with a woman, Feldsher said, and didn’t believe Weinstein was capable of the violent crimes of which he’s been accused.
Feldsher testified that he recalled a time at some point in the 1990’s when Sciorra told him, “she’d done this crazy thing with Harvey” and his understanding was that she meant, “she fooled around with him.”
Feldsher said he couldn’t remember when they had the conversation or any other detail about the alleged sexual encounter he said Sciorra told him about.
In open court Feldsher said that when he texted Weinstein that Sciorra told him she’d had sex with Weinstein the day after it happened and subsequently, he said “under oath that is not true.” Feldsher testified that he does not recall ever speaking to Sciorra about the interaction again.
In the text messages from 2018 , Feldsher called Sciorra an “a**hole” and told Weinstein that she was “full of shit” in regards to the alleged rape.
“I think the dog pile of actresses who are suddenly brave and recalling suppressed memories is hideous,” Feldsher told Weinstein.
Feldsher said “yes” he was telling Weinstein what he “wanted to hear” when asked about his text messages in regards to the allegations against him.
When asked if he was again saying what Weinstein wanted to hear in the courtroom Feldsher said, “Categorically no.”
“I had no idea my text messages would end up in a court room,” Feldsher said.
He said he continued to be Weinstein’s friend in recent years amid the allegations, “partially because nobody else was.”
In one text Feldsher told his disgraced friend he’d always stick up for him.
“Unless and until you make a some kind of confession or you are proven legally guilty, I will continue to be the one to be the controversial cum inappropriate person who defends you,” he said.
“The Sopranos” actress said the movie mogul raped and sexually assaulted her at her Manhattan apartment in the winter of 1993-1994. She first publicly spoke about the attack in an October 2017 story in the New Yorker as part of a wave of accusations against him.
Weinstein’s alleged attack of Sciorra is outside of the statute of limitations, and he is not directly charged with assaulting her. Still, he faces two counts of predatory sexual assault, and he can be convicted on those counts if prosecutors prove he committed sex crimes against multiple victims. Sciorra’s testimony is relevant to these two charges.
Sciorra is one of six women who testified that Weinstein attacked them. In all, he faces five charges related to the alleged rape of Jessica Mann and forced oral sex of Mimi Haleyi. Three other women testified as “prior bad acts” witnesses in an attempt to show a pattern in Weinstein’s behavior.
An old friend of Annabella Sciorra
Around the time he was texting Weinstein in 2018 about how Sciorra was making up the rape allegations, Feldsher also sent Sciorra a text in in part saying” “current events are way too much for text but obviously acknowledgement goes to that awfulness.”
Feldsher said the current events he was referring to involved her recent financial hardship not the allegations.
In the 1990’s Sicorra and Feldsher were always in touch, at times staying at each other’s apartments in Los Angeles and New York and traveling together, he testified.
He also said that while they didn’t hang out together, he did recall Sciorra’s friendship with actress Rosie Perez during the 1990’s.
During Rosie Perez’s testimony about Sciorra confiding in her about the alleged rape, the defense questioned the closeness of their friendship.
Prosecutor Illuzzi questioned how close Sciorra and Feldsher really were.
Feldsher testified he recalled Sciorra drinking heavily and taking Xanax during the 90’s to “cope” with stress when she was working a lot.
Feldsher said Thursday they would joke about taking Xanax but he never saw her take it or a prescription bottle or knew where she’d get it.
Sciorra previously testified during the prosecution’s case that she was dependent on alcohol and Valium at one point in time, and would cut herself after the alleged rape, but did not mention Xanax on the stand.
He acknowledged he never observed self-harm marks on her body and while he knew Sciorra lived at an apartment at Gramercy Park for a time, he had never been to it and didn’t have a recollection of when or for how long she lived there.
Weinstein’s defense subpoenaed Feldsher to testify in this case, and he testified Thursday that he hadn’t wanted to be involved in the trial.
Feldsher did not cooperate with the prosecution about the alleged sexual assault allegations during the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation.
His testimony lasted less than two hours Thursday afternoon.
The prosecution rested their case before lunch Thursday morning after calling 28 witnesses over 12 days of testimony.
The defense is expected to call playwright Warren Leight Friday to testify about Sciorra’s behavior on the set of “The Night We Never Met,” the 1993 Miramax movie in which Sciorra was cast by Weinstein.