Early this afternoon in a Manhattan courtroom, actress and model Lauren Marie Young, whose accusations of a sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein are included in a criminal case brought against the former Hollywood producer in Los Angeles, recounted a harrowing incident of being trapped in a hotel bathroom while a naked Weinstein groped her breasts, “grazed” her vagina with one hand and masturbated himself with the other.
By the end of the afternoon, Weinstein’s defense attorney Damon Cheronis had called into question numerous details of the account and hammered away at inconsistencies in Young’s testimony today and versions of the incident she’d conveyed previously to law enforcement agencies and district attorneys on both coasts.
At one point, with Young’s pro bono attorney Gloria Allred seated in the front row of the courtroom’s spectator section, Cheronis, his hands in thin rubber gloves, held up the white lace dress Young was wearing during the alleged attack and attempted to demonstrate the difficulty of unbuttoning and unzipping the garment as Young claimed Weinstein had forcibly done.
Earlier today, under questioning by the prosecution, Young told of being invited by fellow model and acquaintance (and friend of Weinstein) Claudia Salinas to meet with Weinstein and Salinas at the bar of the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills to discuss a script that Young was writing. Though Weinstein seemed uninterested in the semi-autobiographical script, he encouraged Young, she said, of auditioning for a role on America’s Next Top Model.
At some point during the meeting in the lounge, Weinstein said he needed to get ready for an awards event for Quentin Tarantino, and invited the two model-actresses to his suite of rooms upstairs to continue the discussion.
Young then described a chilling and quick series of events in which Weinstein led her (with Salinas following behind) to his suite, then down a short hall to a room that turned out to be a bathroom. As Young followed Weinstein into the room, she said, unaware that it was a bathroom, Salinas, outside the bathroom, quickly shut and locked the door, with Weinstein stripped naked and quickly rinsing himself in a shower, with Young turning away to avoid seeing him naked.
“It was the quickest I’ve ever seen anybody undress,” Young said, adding that she could see Salinas through the opaque glass bathroom door standing in the hallway. “I felt so trapped…I started backing up away from him.”
Young said she initially laughed nervously when the door slammed shut. “The fact that this girl had invited me here and (then) closed the door and didn’t come in and left me there, that’s when I realized…,” Young said, her voice trailing off as she quietly wept.
Young testified that Weinstein quickly stepped out of the shower – he hadn’t closed the glass shower door – and began masturbating. She initially faced away from him and saw him in the mirror, but, she said, he grabbed her and turned her to face him, grasping her breast with one hand and masturbating with the other.
“He got right in front of me and was saying, ‘We’re just going to talk, how am I going to know if you can act?…He unzipped and pulled down my dress, and I’m saying ‘no no no’ and he’s just carrying on a conversation saying ‘this is what all actresses do…He was pinching my nipple and grabbing hard on my breast, and I couldn’t move.” Weinstein also, she said, “grazed” her vagina with his hand.
The producer, Young said, finally let her go “when he finished” by ejaculating into a towel on the floor. Weinstein then left the bathroom, and Young fled, shooting Salinas an “evil” look as they passed in the small hallway.
From there, Young said she drove home to West Los Angeles, and met two friends, which whom she confided what had just happened. She did not call the police, she said, because she feared Weinstein’s “power.”
The following day, Young went to a pre-scheduled meeting with an executive at the Weinstein Company, a meeting designed to continue discussions of America’s Next Top Model. Young said she decided to follow through with the meeting in order to confront Weinstein about the incident, but her alleged abuser was not present. Instead she met with Weinstein Company producer Barbara Schneeweiss, who encouraged Young to submit headshots for possible involvement with the reality series.
Young said she did not follow up on Schneeweiss’ request or subsequent requests and invitations from the company. She said she did not see Harvey Weinstein again until today in court.
Young’s allegations are included in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s case filed January 6, the day the New York trial got underway. The LA charges allege Weinstein assaulted Young and raped another woman on consecutive nights in February 2013.
Young’s case is not among those being tried in New York; she has been called to testify here in the cases of Jessica Mann and Mimi Haleyi to help establish Weinstein’s pattern of sexual assault.
Under cross examination by Weinstein defense attorney Cheronis, Young was asked about multiple inconsistencies in her account of the alleged misconduct. She’d apparently had previously told Los Angeles prosecutors and/or law enforcement that her first meeting with both Salinas and Weinstein occurred at a dinner party only days before the attack at the Montage Hotel in February 2013, only to now allege that a year had passed between the initial meeting and the attack. Nor did Young ever mention to authorities, prior to today, that Weinstein had touched or even “grazed” her vagina.
In fact, Cheronis said, she’d previously told authorities that she didn’t think Weinstein “touched her down there.”
“You didn’t say he ‘grazed’ you either,” Cheronis said. “That’s a pretty important fact, isn’t it?”
“I’m not a lawyer,” Young replied. “I don’t know what’s important.”
Cheronis also picked apart other details in Young’s story: How did she know Salinas locked the bathroom door if Weinstein was blocking her access to the door? Why had she never mentioned before today that she’d been “pushed up against the sink” in the bathroom? And why had she initially told police that the bathroom had a sliding door, only revising her description after re-visiting the Montage Hotel much later?
Cheronis also questioned Young’s description of Weinstein’s naked body: The witness said today that her assailant appeared to have no testicles and a deformed penis, details she had not mentioned in previous accounts.
“Did someone give you a description of Mr. Weinstein’s body?”, Cheronis asked; accuser Jessica Mann, in testimony earlier in this trial, described Weinstein’s genitals as deformed, scarred or underdeveloped. When Young said she’d previously drawn a picture of Weinstein’s body for police, CHER said, the drawing “was not complicated, just a man holding his penis.”
While presenting the white lace dress that Young says she wore during the Montage Hotel encounter, Cheronis asked how it was that Young only discovered the dress in her closet this past weekend, years after the dress had apparently gone missing in moving boxes that Young had stored in her Pennsylvania home since leaving Los Angeles.
Young indicated that she hadn’t completely unpacked her belongings but went through the boxes in preparation for this trial.
Cheronis asked whether Young knew that the dress could have been tested for DNA or the lack thereof, then quickly suggested that turning the dress over to lawyers in “the middle of a trial makes it harder” to run DNA tests for evidence.
At one point, Cheronis asked Young whether she was involved in a civil lawsuit against Weinstein, with Young answering she was not but conceded that Allred had been retained as her attorney on a pro-bono basis.
The cross-examination is expected to continue tomorrow, with the prosecution possibly resting its case thereafter. The defense will then begin presenting its own witness.
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