Harvey Weinstein's attorneys are hoping to rebound Friday after a rocky start to their defense, by calling a film director who they hope will dimish the credibility of a rape accuser who acknowledged abusing prescription drugs before the alleged assault.
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The first defense witness, an industry executive who remains a Weinstein ally, seemed blindsided on Thursday when a prosecutor confronted him with text messages that appeared to justify Weinstein's behavior and bash his accusers.
Paul Feldsher, a former agent who once knew Weinstein accuser Annabella Sciorra, scolded Weinstein in November 2018 for “behaving like a cad.” But in another message shown to the jury, he stuck up for Weinstein, telling him: “I think the dog pile of actresses who are suddenly brave and recalling repressed memories is hideous.”
The defense had hoped Feldsher would discredit Sciorra by recounting a conversation he had with her in the early 1990s in which she supposedly told him she had “done this crazy thing with Harvey” but didn't say she had been assaulted.
“My understanding was that she fooled around with him," he testified.
Feldsher's text messages to Weinstein were from the fall of 2018, and had not been entered as evidence.
“Did you also say to Harvey Weinstein that your appetite and ambition for the things you want — a script, a movie, and yes, a girl — to put it mildly, is voracious,” lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon probed, according to Page Six.
He responded, "Yes," and grew increasingly rattled as the questions continued, according to the report.
“What I meant by that was Harvey was very dogged in his pursuit of projects and material, etc., etc.,” Feldsher tried to explain. When Illuzzi-Orbon further probed him about his meaning of the word "voracious" with "a girl," he responded, “I meant that it was my understanding for a very long time that Harvey had a sex addiction and that he dated a lot of women."
The prosecution continued with questions about his text messages.
“Then you go on to say, ‘if a lot of these girls had been my daughter, I’d want to beat the s–t out of you.’ Is that right?” Illuzzi-Orbon asked Feldsher.
He responded: "That's correct."
On Friday, the defense team will call Warren Leight, who wrote and directed “The Night We Never Met." The 1993 romantic comedy stars Annabella Sciorra, the actress who testified early in the trial that Weinstein barged into her apartment and raped her in the mid-1990s.
But that isn't Leight's only connection to the case.
Now the “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" showrunner, he wrote a #MeToo-themed episode of the show, based on the Weinstein saga.
In the episode titled "I'm Going to Make You a Star," the head of a big media studio is arrested after he's accused of raping young actresses and forcing one to watch him masturbate at an audition. In a line evoking what accusers have said of Weinstein, the mogul character – who goes by the name "Sir Toby" in the episode – tells a victim: “You want this part, don’t you?”
"I thought, go big," Leight told People magazine after the episode aired in September.
Sciorra, the first of six accusers to take the witness stand earlier in the trial, was friends with Leight and testified that she brought his “The Night We Never Met” script to Weinstein's attention, even staging a reading with her theater company so the once-revered Hollywood honcho could hear it acted out.
Sciorra, now 59, said Weinstein agreed to make the film, but only if she starred in it — something she resisted because she already had back-to-back movie shoots booked and didn't want a third.
To help her cope with the grueling schedule, Sciorra said Weinstein sent her a care package that included a bottle of Valium and that, by the time “The Night We Never Met" started filming, she was hooked on the drug. She said it was around the same time that she started drinking alcohol.
On cross-examination, defense lawyer Donna Rotunno questioned if Sciorra was on Valium or drunk the night she alleges Weinstein raped her. The actress denied both, saying she had weaned herself off the drug by then and didn't have much to drink that night.
“I realized I was addicted to the Valium and I was taking it during the day a lot, at nighttime,” Sciorra testified. “I also knew it wasn't good for me.”
“The Night We Never Met” finished filming in December 1992, according to the Internet Movie Database. Sciorra alleges Weinstein raped her in late 1993 or early 1994 after giving her a ride home from a dinner with people in the film industry.
Rotunno foreshadowed Leight's appearance on the witness stand as she grilled Sciorra about her use of Valium and her behavior on the set of “The Night We Never Met.” At one point, the lawyer asked if Leight ever spoke to her “about the fact you were intoxicated.”
Sciorra said no, but later said, “He might have, I don't recall."
Prosecutors rested their case against Weinstein on Thursday after more than two weeks of testimony from about two dozen witnesses.
Weinstein is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in March 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on a different woman in 2006. Sciorra's allegations, too old for criminal charges on their own, are the basis for a charge alleging Weinstein is a serial predator who has committed multiple assaults over the years.
Weinstein, 67, has maintained any sexual encounters were consensual.
His lawyers on Friday are also expected to call to the witness stand cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who specializes in human memory. They are looking to raise doubts about the accusers' recollections of encounters that, in some cases, are more than a decade or two old.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.