Harvey Weinstein hired a new legal team to represent him after his lawyer said in a letter to the court that the disgraced movie mogul "has insisted upon actions with which I have fundamental disagreements."
Lawyer Jose Baez exited the case Thursday during a hearing in which New York State Supreme Court Justice James Burke approved attorneys Donna Rotunno and Damon Cheronis to take over. This is the third legal team to take over the rape case.
Rotunno said in a news conference following the hearing that she believes Weinstein "has been railroaded" and that "movements allow emotion to take over and they're devoid of fact and evidence."
Baez was present at the hearing and had a private conference with the judge at the bench to explain why he wanted off the case. In a letter to the court, Baez said, “Mr. Weinstein has engaged in behavior that makes representation unreasonably difficult to carry out effectively and has insisted upon taking actions with which I have fundamental disagreements.”
During the hearing, Weinstein confirmed to the judge that he consented to the change in his legal representation.
The rape trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 9 and is expected to last approximately five weeks, according to the Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, who will lead the prosecution.
Weinstein remains free on $1 million bail after pleading not guilty July 9, 2018, to charges of first-degree rape, third-degree rape, predatory sexual assault, and criminal sexual act in the first degree.
One of the accusers, who has not been publicly identified, alleges that Weinstein raped her in 2013 at a Manhattan hotel.
Rotunno, a Chicago-based former Cook County prosecutor, will be joined by co-counsel Arthur Aidala and Diane Sampson who will stay on from the previous legal team. Rotunno has previously represented a Chicago Bears cornerback, who was accused of sexual assault, murder and various other significant crimes.
Weinstein’s new attorney says he is being railroaded and that she has proof the relationships he had with his accusers were consensual.
“The emotion of this case has been taken over and common sense has been left outside. We are hoping that as the trial progresses, as the evidence is put forth and witnesses are heard, we will hear the other side of this story, I think it's going to be obvious that the relationships he had with women in this case were quite consensual and we have a lot of documentation to back those things up,” Rotunno said.
Rotunno tells NBC that the #MeToo movement has been a disservice to women. "My biggest problem with #MeToo is there is no consideration for the facts or evidence, we have to believe what people say without any corroborating evidence or facts," she said.
Weinstein was a longtime Hollywood kingmaker until multiple allegations of sexual violations toppled his production empire. His case and others spawned the #MeToo movement in 2017.
When Chicago Magazine profiled Rotunno in February 2018, she said she can be more effective than a male lawyer at cross-examining women. "He may be an excellent lawyer, but if he goes at that woman with the same venom that I do, he looks like a bully," she said. "If I do it, nobody even bats an eyelash. And it has been very effective."
Gloria Allred, an attorney for one of the Weinstein accusers, says, “I agree that women are responsible for their own choices but when will Mr. Weinstein be held responsible for his? Mr. Weinstein removed these women's ability to choose if he forced himself on them. If the jury believes that Mr. Weinstein did force himself on women, then the jury should hold him responsible for that.”
This is Weinstein’s third defense team after attorneys Ben Brafman, Baez and Ronald Sullivan all left the case.