Harvey Weinstein has hired the attorney who won Casey Anthony’s acquittal to lead his defense against sexual assault charges in New York City, his new legal team announced Wednesday.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Jose Baez said he and Harvard University Law professor Ronald Sullivan would take over Weinstein’s defense after the disgraced mogul had a falling-out with his prior attorneys.
“Mr. Weinstein steadfastly maintains his innocence in this matter and we are looking forward to assisting Mr. Weinstein in his defense,” Baez said in the statement.
Earlier this month, sources told The Times that Weinstein’s current defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, was expected to ask a New York City judge permission to be relieved as the ex-Hollywood titan’s counsel after the two began to wrestle over how to handle both the legal and public relations crises faced by Weinstein.
In New York, Weinstein is charged with five counts of sexual assault involving two separate incidents in 2004 and 2013. Law enforcement officials in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and London are all weighing cases against him as well, and dozens of other women have made allegations of sexual abuse and harassment that have not resulted in criminal prosecutions.
Since December, Weinstein has pushed for a more aggressive approach that seeks to undermine not only the accusers involved in the Manhattan criminal case, but also the dozens of women accusing him of sexually inappropriate conduct over four decades in Hollywood.
After months of letting Brafman set the tone of the defense, Weinstein recently began taking a more direct role in his defense, including contacting several media power players, the sources said.
Baez famously won an acquittal for Orlando’s Casey Anthony in the 2008 death of her young daughter, Caylee. The 2011 trial became international news, and Baez managed to protect Anthony from convictions on the most serious charges she faced, including murder and child abuse.
Sullivan, a member of the Baez firm, is director of the criminal justice institute at Harvard’s law school, according to the university’s website.
A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office could not immediately comment on the change. A judge has not yet formally approved Weinstein’s change of counsel.
Weinstein was expected to return to court in March for a pretrial hearing. Last month, Manhattan Superior Court Judge James Burke rejected a motion to dismiss the charges against Weinstein.
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