MANHATTAN (CN) — A producer friend of one actress who accused Harvey Weinstein of rape took the stand as the film honcho’s first defense witness Thursday, rebutting Annabella Sciorra’s testimony and then detailing his recent loyalty to Weinstein.
Two weeks ago Sciorra, 59, recounted over several hours of emotional testimony that Weinstein had forced his way into her 17th floor Gramercy Park apartment and raped her after a dinner in the winter of 1993 or ’94.
“I remember Annabella saying she’d done this crazy thing with Harvey Weinstein,” agent-turned-producer Paul Feldsher testified Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“My understanding was that she fooled around with him,” he continued, recalling a Manhattan walk-and-talk with Sciorra in the early 1990s.
Weinstein’s defense attorney Donna Rotunno asked Feldsher: “Did she say anything about Harvey ever forcing anything on her?”
“No,” he replied.
“Based on your relationship with Annabella, you didn’t think that her account was truthful,” Rotunno asked.
“Correct,” Feldsher responded.
“You said you knew Mr. Weinstein wasn’t a rapist?” Rutunno asked.
“Correct,” Feldsher repeated.
Feldsher testified Thursday that he had not been in touch with Sciorra in seven years but that he had texted her some time after the 2017 allegations against Weinstein broke.
“I still care about her, I still consider her a friend,” he said.
Text messages brought up on cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Osborn showed Feldsher telling Sciorra that, “current events are way too much for text, but obviously acknowledgement goes to that awfulness.”
“The awfulness,” Feldsher explained on the stand, “is Annabella was a 58-year-old woman who was unemployed, she’s got twins she can’t support, with no health insurance.”
Spike Lee gave Sciorra her breakout role in with the 1991 film “Jungle Fever,” and the Brooklyn-born actress earned an Emmy nod a decade later for her portrayal of Gloria Trillo on HBO’s “The Sopranos.”
During the prosecution’s cross-examination, Illuzi read text messages from Feldsher reaching out to Weinstein at the same time that he texted Sciorra.
“I know you guys had a whatever-the-fuck night twenty years ago,” Feldsher texted to Weinstein, referencing an incident with Sciorra. “Well the rape version got her an agent at CAA,” Feldsher wrote, referring to one of the major talent agencies in the industry, Creative Artists Agency.
Further in the extensive text exchange with Weinstein, Feldsher told the disgraced producer, “I think the dogpile of actresses who are suddenly brave in recalling repressed memories is hideous.”
Feldsher clarified on the stand that his use of “dogpile” only referred quantity of women accusing Weinstein, “a plethora,” and not any reference to animals, he said.
“This was somebody I knew that was in trouble, and I was speaking to him partially because nobody else was, so I was talking to him,” Feldsher explained Thursday.
“I felt badly that he was completely abandoned,” Feldsher said. “I felt badly that it was going to be very difficult for him to get due process.”
Feldsher testified that he believed that Weinstein did not rape the dozens of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. “Until he is found guilty by a jury of his peers, I will stand by his innocence,” he said Thursday.
“It was my understanding for a very long time that Harvey had a sex addiction and that he dated a lot of women,” Feldsher testified. Later on the stand, Feldsher tried to walk back labeling Weinstein as sex addict, but insisted that the producer had a “voracious appetitive” for sex.
Illuzzi-Osborn asked Feldsher to explain a text message he sent to Weinstein telling the accused producer, “If a lot of those girls had been my daughter, I would have wanted to beat the shit out of you.”
Breaking down the text message, Feldsher said: “I was trying to be a friend and say, ‘I know the extremes of your personality, the extremes of your appetite.”
“I am learning a lot now, and I had no idea my text messages would end up in the courtroom,” Feldsher added.
Feldsher testified that Weinstein had paid him $60,000 for consulting work on the production of 2017 comedy-drama “The Upside,” a remake of the 2011 French film “The Intouchables.”
Weinstein’s defense is expected to spend two more days calling witnesses in their case.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and says any sexual activity was consensual.
He faces a life sentence if convicted of five felony charges, including two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree, rape in the first degree, and rape in the third degree.
The criminal case has now been at trial for a month.