By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The man accused of swiping Kirsten Dunst's Balenciaga handbag from the SoHo Grand Hotel had every reason to be there back in 2008, his lawyer said Wednesday. He was with the drug dealer invited to the penthouse suite the crew was using during a film shoot.
That's the new line of defense for James Jimenez, 35, who is on trial for the second time for allegedly swiping Dunst's $2,000 handbag and other items from the suite shared with actor Simon Pegg as a scene from "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" was being filmed in the hotel lobby.
Jimenez's attorney, Robert Parker, said during his opening statement that his client's alleged accomplice, Jarrod Beinerman, is a "major New York drug dealer" who had permission to be in the hotel room.
"There is a very good explanation as to why my client was there," Parker told the jury.
"There were drugs in the room of Kirsten Dunst and Simon Pegg," he said, without saying what they were or elaborating further.
"Why would Bienerman come to penthouse room that is supposedly secure?" Parker said. "He obviously had permission to be there."
Parker claimed Jimenez had nothing to do with a possible drug sale or the theft, and was simply along for the ride with his boyhood friend.
"[Jimenez] just happened to tag along and he should not be convicted of this very serious crime because he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," Parker said.
Prosecutors said Jimenez and his partner "took advantage of the somewhat chaotic scene" the movie set caused and snuck into an employee-only elevator to get to the top floor.
"They [stole] jewelry, cameras, cash, purses, telephones, wallets and other pieces of property from the actors and the assistant who left their belongings there for safekeeping," Assistant District Attorney Patricia Stolfi Collins said.
Jimenez was cleared on one burglary count during the first trial, but the jury was deadlocked on two other charges stemming from the August 2007 incident.
His defense in the previous trial was that he followed his friend into the hotel room but didn't realize Bienerman had taken anything.
Bienerman pleaded guilty to burglary charges related to this incident in 2008 and was sentenced to four years in state prison.
Dunst and Pegg are expected to testify next week.