Harvey Weinstein was in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday as a judge approved his request for a new defense team in his rape and sexual assault case.
The disgraced movie mogul appeared with his former star lawyer Ben Brafman, who withdrew from the case last week, and his new team – which includes two former lawyers for Rose McGowan, one of his most high-profile accusers.
Justice James Burke brought up Jose Baez and Ronald Sullivan’s connection to McGowan while speaking with Weinstein, 66, during the hearing.
Harvey Weinstein was in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday as a judge approved his request for a new defense team in his rape and sexual assault case
The disgraced movie mogul appeared with his former star lawyer Ben Brafman, who withdrew from the case last week, and his new team – which includes two former lawyers for Rose McGowan, one of his most high-profile accusers
‘It’s my understanding there is a potential conflict of interest regarding at least Mr Baez and Mr Sullivan, who you have requested to represent you, who recently represented the actress Rose McGowan, who has been one of your most vocal accusers. Is that fair to say?’ Burke asked.
‘Yes,’ Weinstein replied.
Burke then warned Weinstein that if McGowan were to be called to testify at the trial, his attorneys could not use any information they ‘may have learned in representing her’.
‘Do you understand they might not cross-examine Ms McGowan as vigorously as other attorneys might have?’ he asked Weinstein, who said that he did.
Prosecutors do not plan to call McGown to testify during the trial, in which Weinstein is accused of forcibly performing oral sex on production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping a longtime lover in Manhattan in 2013.
But the judge’s warnings foreshadow what will become a key question in Weinstein’s trial – which of his accusers will be allowed to testify against him?
Justice James Burke brought up Jose Baez (center) and Ronald Sullivan’s (left) connection to McGowan while speaking with Weinstein, 66, during the hearing
Weinstein confirmed he understood there could be a potential conflict of interest due to Baez and Sullivan’s past representation of McGowan
The judge yhen warned Weinstein that if McGowan were to be called to testify at the trial, his attorneys could not use any information they ‘may have learned in representing her’
Since October 2017, Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than 80 women, including prominent actresses such as Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie.
The case brought in New York is the only one that has resulted in criminal proceedings against Weinstein.
After Weinstein waived the conflict and Sullivan and Baez indicated they were aware of the restrictions, Burke approved the movie mogul’s request to change lawyers.
Joining Baez, a Florida trial lawyer, and Sullivan, a Harvard law professor, will be attorneys Duncan Levin and Pamela Mackey, the latter of whom did not appear in court on Friday.
Also appearing alongside Weinstein was his former star defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman (left), who withdrew from the disgraced movie mogul’s case last week
After Weinstein waived the conflict and Sullivan and Baez indicated they were aware of the restrictions, Burke approved the movie mogul’s request to change lawyers
When Weinstein left the courtroom, a reporter asked if he was happy with his new defense.
‘Absolutely,’ he said, according to the
Baez then held a press conference on Friday and declared that Weinstein was innocent.
‘That is what Harvey Weinstein has said to this court, that he is innocent of these charges, when he pled not guilty.’
‘This case is a test of the presumption of innocence,’ Baez added. ‘He should be entitled to the same presumption as everyone else.’
Meanwhile, McGowan has claimed that Weinstein’s new hires are a ‘major conflict of interest’ and that she ‘knew there was shadiness going on behind the scenes’ with her lawyers.
Weinstein appeared to be in somber spirits as he walked into the courthouse on Friday
He could be seen trailing behind is new lawyer Baez, who has led a number of high-profile cases during his career
Weinstein and Baez were flanked by policemen as they walked into the Manhattan court
Baez strode confidently into the room as Weinstein trailed behind him on Friday morning
‘I have been messed with every step of the way in this fight against a super predator. So much evil, so much complicity,’ she tweeted on Wednesday.
McGowan hired Baez and Sullivan last year to act as co-counsel after she was charged with drug possession when cocaine was found in a wallet she left behind at an airport.
The actress claimed in court documents that the two bags of cocaine had been planted in her wallet by someone working for Weinstein.
Speaking to the
‘I thought Harvey would get to them behind the scenes and I wouldn’t have fair representation.’
McGowan appeared in Virginia court earlier this month to plead no contest and was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine.
At one point Weinstein could be seen discussing something with Baez and Sullivan
He then walked out of the hearing, with Sullivan in front of him and Baez by his side
When a reporter asked if Weinstein was happy with his new defense team, he replied ‘Yes’
Baez then held a press conference on Friday and declared that Weinstein was innocent
‘I asked Jose Baez directly if he would ever work with Harvey and I told him it was my fear that he would be bought off while representing me,’ McGowan said. ‘He responded by saying, ”I don’t like to lose.”’
Baez and Sullivan often work together on cases and in 2017 notably won the acquittal for Aaron Hernandez, the late New England Patriots player accused of a double homicide
McGowan has claimed that Weinstein’s new hires are a ‘major conflict of interest’ and that she ‘knew there was shadiness going on behind the scenes’ with her lawyers
The attorneys told The Daily Beast in a statement: ‘We were pleased to represent our former client, Ms Rose McGowan, in a matter unrelated to Mr Weinstein’s current charges.’
‘After consultation with ethics counsel, we are certain no conflict of interest exists. We wish Ms McGowan well with all her future endeavors.’
Baez himself has also led a number of high-profile cases, including the 2011 acquittal for Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who was charged with murdering her two-year-old daughter
Sullivan is considered an expert in criminal cases that have been deemed ‘impossible’ to defend.
And Mackey, the only female lawyer on Weinstein’s team, represented Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant when he was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2003.
The case was dropped after the victim stopped cooperating and Bryant has always maintain that it was consensual.
Earlier this month, Weinstein told the
Baez (left) and Sullivan (right) represented former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez in the 2017 acquittal case and will now make up Weinstein’s defense team
Baez also previously led the team in Casey Anthony’s high-profile 2011 acquittal after she was accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter
But Brafman, 70, revealed last week he was withdrawing from Weinstein’s case.
The announcement came just a day after the Post published an expose claiming that Brafman and Weinstein had a ‘blowout argument’.
Sources claimed that Brafman was angered over the fact that Weinstein wanted to expand his legal team.
Brafman left the case a month after a judge denied his request to have Weinstein’s entire sexual assault case thrown out.
Since Weinstein’s May 2018 indictment, Brafman has brought evidence of errors in the prosecution’s investigation, which led to charges being dropped from complaints brought by one of three alleged victims.
Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex. He is currently free on $1million bail and his trial is set to begin in May.