FILE - In this April 26, 2019, file photo, former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein leaves State Supreme Court in New York for a lunch break. Weinstein is recasting his defense team yet again, this time a mere 60 days before he’s due to stand trial in New York on sexual assault charges. One lawyer has bolted amid public backlash and another has said they just couldn’t get along. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

New York judge OKs Weinstein defence team recasting 60 days before trial

Weinstein is charged with raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006

With one lawyer bolting amid public backlash and another saying he and his client just couldn’t get along, a judge on Thursday approved a request to recast Harvey Weinstein’s defence team yet again, this time a mere 60 days before the disgraced movie mogul is due to stand trial in New York on sexual assault charges.

Lawyer Jose Baez, who’s known for representing high-profile clients such as Casey Anthony, asked for permission to leave Weinstein’s sexual assault case. The judge asked Weinstein if that was OK with him. Weinstein replied, “Yes” and the court gave the green light.

Weinstein, who ignored journalists’ questions outside the Manhattan courtroom, is adding two new lawyers, Donna Rotunno and Damon Cheronis, both of Chicago. The lawyers have promised the judge that they won’t seek to postpone the trial from its scheduled Sept. 9 start.

Rotunno has espoused a philosophy that the #metoo movement, spurred by revelations about Weinstein’s alleged behaviour, is overblown and that women are “responsible for the choices they make.”

“I chose to represent Harvey Weinstein because I think these are the types of cases that lawyers that do what I do live for,” Rotunno said outside the courthouse after Thursday’s hearing. “It gives us an opportunity to have a forum to speak what we believe, and I believe that the facts and evidence in this case are actually very favourable to Mr. Weinstein.”

Gloria Allred, who represents one of the accusers in the criminal case, offered a different perspective, saying, saying: “I agree that women are responsible for their own choices, but when will Mr. Weinstein be held responsible for his?”

Weinstein’s new lawyers join Arthur Aidala, a New York City lawyer whose clients have included rapper 50 Cent, former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and the late Fox News chief, Roger Ailes.

Baez is the latest defection from what was once seen as a modern version of O.J. Simpson’s “dream team” of attorneys.

The pretrial hearing played out in open court, but two conversations among the judge and lawyers happened in secrecy.

After approving Baez’s request to withdraw from the case, Judge James Burke called him to the bench for a one-on-one chat that lasted about five minutes.

There was no court reporter present to take a transcript of the conversation.

Later, he called all of the lawyers to the bench for a 10-minute discussion of how they’ll proceed when it comes time for jury selection. Again there was no court reporter to make a record of the conversation.

Aidala appeared perturbed by what he called the judge’s “extended private conversation” with Baez.

He asked if he could also approach the bench, but Burke waved him off.

Asked outside court if he was off the case, Baez responded, “”Yup. I feel like I won the lottery. Just kidding.”

READ MORE: Judge declines to throw out Harvey Weinstein criminal case

Baez, known for representing high-profile clients such as Casey Anthony, told Burke in a letter last month that Weinstein has tarnished their relationship by communicating only through other lawyers and by failing to abide by a fee agreement.

“Mr. Weinstein has engaged in behaviour that makes this representation unreasonably difficult to carry out effectively and has insisted upon taking actions with which I have fundamental disagreements,” Baez wrote.

The swap comes after another Weinstein lawyer, Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan, left in May amid backlash about his involvement.

Sullivan’s involvement in the case drew protests from some students and faculty on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus.

Buildings were defaced with graffiti that included the slogans “Down w Sullivan!” ”Your Silence is Violence” and “Whose Side Are You On?” And the university removed him from his position as head of a student house citing “concerns about the climate” within the house.

Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. He denies the allegations.

Baez and Sullivan started representing Weinstein in January, when the former movie producer overhauled his legal team for the first time. That happened after his original lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, lost a hard-fought bid to get the case thrown out.

Pamela Robillard Mackey, who represented Kobe Bryant in his 2003 Colorado sexual assault case, and ex-Manhattan prosecutor Duncan Levin were also hired in January and have since left.

ALSO READ: Jeffrey Epstein faces sex trafficking and conspiracy charges

__

AP Video Journalist Ted Shaffrey contributed to this report.

___

Michael R. Sisak And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford mom worried about her two kids in Beirut following explosion

Shelley Beyak’s children were abducted by their dad in 2018

Steve Coleman resigns as president of Abbotsford Minor Baseball Association

Coleman also steps down as chair of Sport Abbotsford, proud of his work with AMBA

Former high-stakes poker player from Mission missing in Nevada

Brad Booth last seen on July 13, told roommate he was going camping

RCMP charge Langley man in connection with boat collision on Cultus Lake

A 67-year-old man allegedly operated a motor boat that collided with a woman paddling a canoe

Mission’s 7-Eleven defaced with racist graffiti

Racist insults attacking Indo-Canadians ‘shocked’ manager

Airlines dispute Dr. Henry’s claim they ‘very rarely’ give accurate COVID contact tracing info

Air Canada, WestJet say they provide names and contact information

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

Health Canada recalling more than 50 hand sanitizers in evolving list

Organization says to stop using products listed, and to consult a health-care professional

Airborne hot dog strikes Greater Victoria pedestrian

Police called to 4200-block of Quadra Street for hot dog incident

B.C. scientist, 63, protests in trees set to be removed for Trans Mountain pipeline

Tim Takaro is reaching new heights as he tries to stall the pipeline expansion project in New Westminster

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Dinosaurs revived for animatronic auction in Langley

More than 500 robot dinosaurs, fossils, and exhibition gear are going on the block Aug. 6

Most Read