In October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker published stories alleging that Harvey Weinstein had sexually assaulted copious amounts of women over decades. The former Miramax and The Weinstein Company mogul lost his job, his wife and his career almost instantly–but it wasn’t until the next year when he was officially charged with any crimes.
On May 25, 2018, Weinstein surrendered and was arrested on sexual assault charges after he was accused of raping a woman he knew in a hotel room in March 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on another woman in 2004 at his Manhattan apartment. His surrender agreement was negotiated prior to the arrest by criminal defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman.
On May 30, Weinstein was indicted. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said the indictment, “brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged.” On June 5, 2018, the disgraced media mogul pleaded not guilty and was released on $1 million bail, He turned in his passport and agreed to wear an electronic monitoring device and was restricted to his homes in New York and in Connecticut.
In July, Weinstein faced six counts including rape in the first and third degrees, two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree, and two counts of predatory sexual assault. His accusers were Lucia Evans, Mimi Haleyi, and a still-unidentified accuser.
However the prosecution suffered a big blow to the case during an October 11 proceeding when Manhattan Supreme Court justice James Burke dismissed one of the sexual assault counts against Weinstein relating to Lucia Evans due to inconsistencies in her story.
On Dec. 20, 2018, Judge Burke ruled that the sexual assault case could move forward to trial, declining to dismiss any of the remaining charges against Weinstein, who has consistently denied all allegations of non-consensual sex. The New York judge also ruled that claims of prosecutorial misconduct had “no basis” and denied Weinstein’s request for an evidentiary hearing.
Outside the courthouse, Brafman told reporters, “We intend to vigorously defend this case to the best of our ability. It does not in any way suggest that the case against Mr. Weinstein is going to end badly.”
Brafman later gave the following statement to USA Today, “We are obviously disappointed, by the Court’s decision to deny our motion to dismiss the Indictment. Judge Burke has however ruled and we must accept his ruling.” He continued, “Nothing in the Court’s ruling, however, removes the flawed theory of this case that we intend to vigorously defend at trial, where we are confident that Mr. Weinstein will be completely exonerated.”
Brafman also sounded off about the #MeToo movement, saying, “This is not about the #MeToo movement. This is defending a specific criminal case. If the #MeToo movement helps level the playing field for women throughout the world, then we strongly (support) that movement. A movement, however, should not be permitted to push an indictment that is deeply flawed as we believe this movement has done in this case.”
However, attorney Gloria Allred, who represents some of Weinstein’s accusers, said, “This indictment was based on evidence and testimony before the grand jury. It was not based on the #MeToo movement. So let’s be clear about that.”
In January 2019, Weinstein made a surprising legal move, lining up a new legal team that includes attorneys Jose Baez, who gained notoriety defending Casey Anthony in a trial that ended in acquittal, and Harvard Law School professor Ronald Sullivan Jr., who represented Weinstein’s accusers Rose McGowan in 2017 when she was charged with cocaine possession in Virginia after the drug was found in a wallet she left behind on a plane. She pleaded no contest and got no jail time.
“This court cannot stand in the way of Mr Weinstein’s right to the attorney of his choice,” said Judge Burke on Jan 25, 2019.
After questioning over the “potential conflict of interest,” the judge agreed to the change in legal representation and approved the withdrawal of Brafman as Weinstein’s counsel. The judge did caution that if McGowan is called as a witness against Weinstein their legal team would have to go easier on her.
“Your attorneys would not be permitted to use damaging information that they may have learned in the course of representing her,” Burke said. “They might not cross exam Rose McGowan as vigorously as they might have otherwise.”
Outside the court, Brafman said, “I wish him the best of luck with his case.”
Following the ruling, Baez said of his former client McGowan: “We owe her a duty of confidentiality.”
Weinstein now faces five felony sex crimes, including rape. His next court date was scheduled for March 8, but on March 1 Deadline reported that the next session would happen in April.