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Friend of Harvey Weinstein describes him as ‘sex addict’ while disputing Annabella Sciorra’s assault claim

Paul Feldsher is questioned by lawyer Donna Rotunno during film producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault trial at New York Criminal Court on Thursday. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

NEW YORK — One of Harvey Weinstein's last defenders — who is also a former friend of one of his main accusers — took the witness stand Thursday in the disgraced producer's defense.

Paul Feldsher testified that he was close with actress Annabella Sciorra, who testified last month that she was raped by Weinstein in late 1993 or early 1994. At the time, Feldsher said, Sciorra told him about a “crazy,” but, as he understood it, consensual “hookup” with Weinstein.

On cross-examination Feldsher was faced with texts to Weinstein that show he is now a fiercely loyal friend of the alleged serial rapist. He did not deny being a source of support for the former Hollywood titan who has been publicly accused by dozens of women around the world of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

“I think the dog pile of actresses who are suddenly brave and recalling suppressed memories are hideous,” Feldsher wrote in a text to Weinstein at some point after the #MeToo movement became a phenomenon, largely instigated by a swarm of allegations made public against Weinstein in October 2017.

Feldsher said that he has known Weinstein, 67, for three decades and that he does not think he is capable of doing what he is accused of. He said he believed Weinstein was “a sex addict” and said he “merited compassion.” He saw him as having a “voracious” appetite for women.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon pressed him on his conclusion that Weinstein “has a sex addiction,” asking if he’d ever “seen Harvey Weinstein in a hotel room alone with a woman.” “By definition, how could I?” the witness said, drawing laughs from the gallery. He clarified: “I believed he had a voracious appetite for women. I am not a clinician. I should not have said sex addict.”

“He was somebody I know who was in trouble, and I was speaking to him because nobody else was,” Feldsher said, defending his recent support of Weinstein. “I felt badly that he was completely abandoned. And I felt badly it was looking very difficult for him to be the recipient of due process.”

He also said he remembers learning about a seemingly benign sexual encounter between Sciorra and Weinstein decades ago and in a text exchange more recently told Weinstein, that the “Sopranos” actress was “a liar” and “an a--hole.”

“I remember her saying to me that she’d done this crazy thing with Harvey,” Feldsher testified on direct examination by Weinstein’s lawyer Donna Rotunno.

Sciorra testified at the start of the trial that Weinstein forced his way into her Gramercy Park apartment after giving her a ride home. The 55-year-old “Hand That Rocks the Cradle” leading woman said she was getting ready for bed when the burly filmmaker appeared at her door. She testified that Weinstein physically forced himself on her and left her frozen on the floor.

It was not what Feldsher sensed when Sciorra told him about sex with Weinstein, according to his testimony.

“My understanding all these years later is that . . . there was no component about what she said that I found shocking or alarming,” he said Thursday. “I don’t recall it being stressful. And I think that I would be a horrible friend if there was a component of that I didn’t follow up,” Feldsher told jurors.

“My understanding was that she fooled around with him,” he added.

Sciorra “was for a several-year period one of my closest friends,” the witness, who was there by subpoena, said on the stand.

They went on trips together, to place such as Paris and Upstate New York. Although they lived on opposite coasts during that time, Feldsher would stay at her New York apartment when he was in town, and she stayed at his home when she was in Los Angeles. They have not been in touch for several years.

Feldsher was the first defense witness called after the prosecution rested its direct case on Thursday after calling 28 witnesses. Prosecutors could still call witnesses on rebuttal before final arguments, which could happen as early as next week.

Weinstein’s lawyers also expect to call a memory expert and Warren Leight, a director, producer and writer who is expected to discuss Sciorra’s behavior on the set of “The Night We Never Met.”

Sciorra admitted in testimony to having a problem with Valium, which she blamed on Weinstein sending the pills to her in a care package before she was sexually assaulted. She said she began drinking heavily after the traumatic event.

Weinstein’s lawyers are expected to argue that her substance abuse was more extensive than she admitted. He faces up to life in prison on the top two counts — predatory sexual assault. He’s also charged with criminal sex act and rape related to encounters in Manhattan in 2006 and 2013.