One by one, the lawyers representing the movie producer against sexual assault charges in Manhattan have bowed out.
In the six months since Harvey Weinstein built his new "dream team" of heavy-hitting lawyers to represent him against sexual assault charges in Manhattan, the movie producer's carefully selected legal cast has completely fallen apart.
Weinstein, whose alleged sexual misconduct set in motion the global #MeToo movement, jettisoned his first lawyer in January. He then hired a team that included a former Manhattan prosecutor and three attorneys who had defended celebrities and some of the country's most vilified defendants.
But one by one, Weinstein's new lawyers have bowed out. With less than three months until the trial begins, Jose Baez, one of the producer's last remaining lawyers, asked a state Supreme Court justice in Manhattan to allow him to withdraw from the case, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications.
"Mr. Weinstein has been aware since at least May 15 that it was very unlikely that I would be able to continue on this case," Baez said in a letter to Justice James Burke on Friday.
Baez did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Weinstein formed his team of star lawyers after he parted ways with Benjamin Brafman, a prominent defence lawyer in Manhattan, following weeks of intense arguing.
Weinstein, 67, faces charges that he raped one woman, who has not been identified, at a Midtown hotel in March 2013, and forced a second woman, Mimi Haleyi, a production assistant, to let him perform oral sex on her at his Manhattan apartment in 2006.
Weinstein has denied the allegations and has said the sexual encounters were consensual.
Baez's request comes weeks after his partner, Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., stepped down, and five days after he had assured the justice he could handle the case.
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Sullivan, a law professor and a faculty dean of an undergraduate house at Harvard University, came under fire by students there for representing Weinstein.
In May, officials at Harvard announced they would end Sullivan's term as dean at the end of June. Sullivan resigned from the case because of a conflict with his teaching schedule.
A second person with knowledge of the discussions, who also asked not to be named because they were private conversations, said that Sullivan's departure was devastating to the team, and that it struggled to find someone who would take over his role.
Weinstein had been impressed by Sullivan's work, and he and Baez were considered a team. They were to share the duty of lead counsel to Weinstein.
Since Sullivan withdrew, Weinstein and Baez have clashed over the preparations for the trial that is expected to start September 9, the second person said.
Weinstein was frustrated because Baez has been splitting his time and attention between preparing for Weinstein's trial and defending top executives at Platinum Partners, an investment management group, in an ongoing securities fraud trial in federal court in Brooklyn.
Weinstein believed that Baez was struggling to keep up with his case and stopped paying him, the person said.
Baez and Sullivan had represented one of Weinstein's most vocal accusers, actress Rose McGowan, when she faced drug possession charges in Virginia. McGowan was one of the first women to come forward and accuse the movie producer of assaulting her, but charges were never filed.
The duo also represented Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player, at his second murder trial, when he was acquitted of murdering two men in Boston.
Baez, who is based in Florida, represented Casey Anthony, the mother acquitted of charges that she murdered her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Pamela Robillard Mackey, a Colorado defence lawyer, and Duncan Levin, a former New York prosecutor, were both a part of Weinstein's dream team and have since withdrawn from the case.
There remain three lawyers on the team: Arthur Aidala, Marianne Bertuna and Diana Fabi Samson, who is a former Manhattan prosecutor. They were brought on through Baez, the person said, but they remain on the case through a separate agreement.
Written by: Jan Ransom
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