Harvey Weinstein’s longtime Los Angeles limousine driver was called to the witness stand Wednesday to preserve his testimony in connection with at least one alleged rape at the center of the jailed film mogul’s California criminal case.
According to prosecutors, Alfred “Freddy” Baroth, 74, was Weinstein’s on-call driver during a critical juncture in February 2013, consistent with allegations that the Oscar-winner made his way into the room of an Italian actress and model at Mr. C Beverly Hills Hotel shortly after the two met at a film festival in LA. Prosecutors have issued a conditional subpoena for Baroth due to his advanced age and the possibility that he may not be able to appear in person at an eventual trial in the case.
According to the charges against him, Weinstein coerced the actress, identified only as Jane Doe. #1 in court records for participating in oral sex against her will on February 18, 2013. Weinstein then raped the woman in her hotel room out of “fear of imminent and unlawful bodily harm,” prosecutors allege.
“He grabbed my hair and made me do something I didn’t want to do,” the actress said Los Angeles Times in her only media interview since reporting the alleged incident to police in 2017. “He then dragged me into the bathroom and violently raped me.” She told the outlet the alleged assault happened just after midnight on February 18, 2013 .
In testimony Wednesday, Baroth said he picked Weinstein up from a private air carrier at Van Nuys Airport around 5 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2013, acted as his on-call driver for 7.5 hours, and then dropped him off at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. He said he charged Weinstein an 8.5-hour “engagement” because he always charged an extra 30 minutes of commute time at each end of a shift. Those 30 minutes could prove critical.
Under cross-examination, Baroth said he could not remember when he returned Weinstein to the Peninsula in the early hours of February 18, 2013. Attorney Mark Werksman gave a delivery time of about 12:30 p.m., to which Baroth agreed.
Baroth’s testimony may be important as he confirmed he was transporting Weinstein to the LA-Italia Film Fest on February 17, 2013 and was working as his driver at the times of two other alleged sexual assaults on February 19, 2013 and May 11, 2010 .
Baroth testified Wednesday that he last worked for Weinstein in October 2017, when he drove the producer around Los Angeles for a few days after the death New York Times released the blockbuster exposé on Oct. 5 that blew the roof off the story of the Hollywood honcho’s predatory behavior.
“That particular period was when all the bad news broke. Mr. Weinstein came here with his family. I was with him for three or four days before putting him on a plane to Arizona,” Baroth explained, confirming that Weinstein paid him an additional $1,000 bonus later that week for his services.
Weinstein, 69, has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of sexual assault involving five unidentified women. Prosecutors allege the once-powerful producer raped three women — one of them twice, a year apart — and sexually assaulted two other victims in attacks on hotels in and around Beverly Hills between 2004 and 2013.
The transcript of Weinstein’s grand jury trial remains sealed, but prosecutors alleged that less than 24 hours after Weinstein’s alleged rape of Jane Doe #1 at the luxury Mr. C hotel, Weinstein sexually assaulted another victim at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills . The Los Angeles Attorney’s Office first charged Weinstein on January 6, 2020, as jury selection in the New York criminal trial against the producer began.
In that trial, on February 24, 2020, a Manhattan jury found Weinstein guilty of two sex crimes: the third-degree rape of aspiring actress Jessica Mann at a DoubleTree hotel in midtown Manhattan in 2013; and the first-degree sexual assault of production assistant Miriam Haley at Weinstein’s SoHo apartment in 2006. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
He has since appealed his landmark #MeToo conviction, with the First Judicial Division of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court hearing hearings on the challenge last December. Surprisingly to many viewers, the five-judge panel largely agreed with Weinstein’s claims that his Manhattan trial judge, Judge James Burke, allowed the jury to hear too many complaints about Weinstein’s alleged history of misconduct.
The judges didn’t immediately rule on the appeal, but their questions and comments raised enough doubts that some court observers have speculated Weinstein’s conviction could be overturned. If that happens, Weinstein may be released on bail pending his trial in Los Angeles.
In the Appeal hearing on December 15thWeinstein’s new defense attorney, Barry Kamins, argued that Judge Burke erred in allowing the jury to hear evidence that included allegations that Weinstein left an assistant abroad and once threatened to “cut off” another man’s genitals with garden shears “.
“What did leaving your employee on the side of the road in a foreign country have to do with this sex crimes case? Aside from that, ‘Let’s put as much in it as we can to show that this guy’s a terrible guy,'” Judge Sallie Manzanet-Daniels asked Manhattan Assistant Attorney Valerie Figueredo during the hearing. Figueredo replied that it was “demonstrating [Weinstein’s] Willingness to advance one’s own interests at the expense of others.”
“You’re really suggesting that wasn’t an exaggeration?” Judge Manzanet-Daniels shot back, saying some of the other incidents brought up during the trial may have “excited” the jury, such as evidence that Weinstein died during of a meeting “beat up his brother”. Figueredo again argued that the alleged threatening behavior was appropriate to demonstrate Weinstein’s issues with “honesty and integrity.”
“There are court cases every day where we have defendants with miles of criminal records. They’re going to have 20 felony convictions on their criminal record and I don’t see a judge saying, ‘Go ahead. Go to town on everyone,’” Manzanet-Daniels said. “There is a balance.”
A decision by the Court of Appeals is expected in the coming months.
A trial date has not yet been set for Weinstein’s criminal case in Los Angeles.