Harvey Weinstein, the once movie mogul, was in a Manhattan courtroom on Friday to request a judge’s approval to change his legal team in his rape and sexual assault case, replacing his New York City attorney with a high profile four-person attorney team.
Weinstein new lawyers: Jose Baez, Ronald Sullivan and Duncan Levin, and ex-lawyer Benjamin Brafman, were at the Court as Judge James Burke signed off on the switch to Weinstein sexual assault charges.
“Welcome to the New York State Supreme Court,” Burke told Weinstein’s new lawyers.
Weinstein and Brafman announced last week that they had “agreed to part ways amicably.” The move came a month after they lost a hard-fought bid to get the case thrown out. Brafman told reporters that he wished Weinstein “the best of luck with his case.”
Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault charges trial is scheduled for May 6, with a pretrial hearing March 8. Baez said they planned to abide by that schedule.
Weinstein is charged with raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. He denies the allegations. “He is innocent, this is what Harvey Weinstein has said to this court, that he is innocent of these
Baez said Weinstein’s case “is testing the presumption of innocence in our country” as it unfolds in a post #MeToo world where rushes to judgment and social media condemnation have become the norm. “You have a man who needs to stand trial for these specific acts and he should be entitled to the same presumption as everyone else,” Baez said. Ignoring due process, he added, is “a threat to all of us.”
Weinstein’s other new lawyer, Pamela Robillard Mackey, didn’t attend Friday’s hearing because she was out of the country.
Baez is perhaps the best-known of the four, first gaining fame representing Casey Anthony, the Florida mom whose televised trial in 2011 ended in an acquittal on charges of killing her young daughter.
Baez and Sullivan, teamed up to successfully defend New England Patriots Aaron Hernandez against murder charges in 2017. Hernandez, in prison for a 2015 murder conviction, killed himself five days later.
Mackey, based in Denver, represented Kobe Bryant when the former basketball star was accused of raping a 19-year-old at a Colorado resort in 2003. The charges were dismissed when prosecutors said the accuser was no longer interested in testifying.
Levin, a former prosecutor under Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., does white-collar criminal defense work in New York City.
Weinstein announced his new lawyers Wednesday.
One of Weinstein accusers, who is from
Actress Rose McGowan, one of the first of dozens of women to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, called it a “major conflict of interest.”
Baez and Sullivan denied that, saying McGowan’s case had nothing to do with Weinstein. She is not an accuser in his criminal case.
Burke warned Weinstein that Baez and Sullivan would not be able to cross-examine McGowan “as vigorously as they might have otherwise” if prosecutors were to call her as a witness because they couldn’t use information that they learned in representing her.
They also agreed not to share any of that material with Weinstein’s other lawyers.
McGowan, who pleaded no contest last week, has alleged that Weinstein had someone plant cocaine that Virginia authorities said they found in her wallet. In attempting to bolster the claim, the “Charmed” star has pointed to emails in which Weinstein and a lawyer discussed her arrest.
Brafman, in his last courtroom act as Weinstein’s lawyer, told the judge that Weinstein was commenting in the emails “on the absurdity of the allegation” that he had the drugs planted, “not the truthfulness of the matter.”