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First defence witness in Weinstein's NY rape trial takes aim at accusers

Writer Paul Feldsher testified for the defence that actress Annabella Sciorra told him in the early 1990s that she had a sexual encounter with Weinstein but did not say she had been raped.

Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York City Criminal Court for the continuation of his rape trial on 24 January 2020 in New York City. Picture: AFP

NEW YORK - The first defence witness in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial acknowledged on Thursday sending messages to the former producer in which he disparaged the “dog pile of actresses” who had accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

Writer Paul Feldsher testified for the defence that actress Annabella Sciorra told him in the early 1990s that she had a sexual encounter with Weinstein but did not say she had been raped.

Under cross-examination by prosecutors, Feldsher, who was a friend of Sciorra’s, acknowledged that he had been in regular contact with Weinstein since allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against the former producer.

“I think the dog pile of actresses who are suddenly brave and recalling repressed memories is hideous,” Feldsher wrote in one text to Weinstein. Dogpile is a slang term sometimes used to describe mass bullying of one person by a large group.

“I stand by the description,” he said of the text on Thursday.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to raping former aspiring actress Jessica Mann and to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi. Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

Weinstein, who produced films including The English Patient and “Shakespeare in Love,” has denied any nonconsensual sex.

His trial is a key moment in the #MeToo movement in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.

Sciorra testified on 24 January that Weinstein forced his way into her apartment on a winter night in 1993 or 1994 and violently raped her. Though that allegation is too old to be charged as a separate crime, prosecutors hope it will show Weinstein is a repeat sexual predator, the charge that could put him in prison for life.

Feldsher was the first witness called by Weinstein after the prosecution rested its case earlier on Thursday.

Under direct examination, Feldsher said Sciorra told him she had “done this crazy thing with Harvey,” and that he understood her to mean that she had “fooled around with him.” Feldsher said that they did not discuss it further and that he had no indication it was a negative experience.

During cross-examining by prosecutors, Feldsher said he had stayed in touch with Weinstein because he “felt badly that he was completely abandoned.”

He acknowledged sending Weinstein text messages disparaging Sciorra in harsh language, calling her “full of shit” and “an asshole.”

“Well the rape version got her an agent at (Creative Artists Agency), so there’s that,” he said in one text.

Feldsher seemed surprised when presented with his messages by prosecutors.

“I’m learning a lot now and I had no idea my text messages would end up in a courtroom,” he said.

Feldsher also sent Weinstein texts criticising his behaviour with women, telling him, “If a lot of these girls had been my daughter I would have wanted to beat the shit out of you.”

He said Thursday he thought Weinstein was a sex addict but did not believe the former producer was capable of committing the crimes of which he has been accused.

Weinstein’s defence case is expected to continue Friday with testimony from Warren Leight, a director and producer who worked with Sciorra in the 1990s, and from Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine who will testify as an expert on memory.

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