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

COLUMN | Creating a “community of practice” inspires

Art Matters by columnist Sarah Zimmerman

Hockey puck with nails found at Terrace Sportsplex Arena

City believes it has already caused $4,000 of damage

Kitselas First Nation receives $1.2M boost for apprenticeship development program

Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education announces $7.5M for six Indigenous training programs

Terrace Skating Club takes home 24 medals from regional championships

Skaters claim top spot for fifth year in a row

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

Asadi-Lari siblings Mohammad Hussein and Zeynab were two of 57 Canadians aboard downed Flight PS752

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Coastal GasLink work camp in Vanderhoof gets approved by the ALC

The work camp behind the Vanderhoof airport was first rejected by the commission in October last year

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

Most Read