Harvey Weinstein plays tic-tac-toe as judge rules tot-mom defender Jose Baez can leave ‘dream team’
Harvey Weinstein was all smiles on Thursday while heading into Manhattan Criminal Court for a hearing ahead of his upcoming criminal trial.
The disgraced mogul was photographed sharing a laugh with his new attorneys before a judge ruled that one of his former lawyers, Jose Baez, could leave his legal ‘dream team.’
Baez has claimed that his relationship with Weinstein soured when the disgraced mogul began communicating with him through his other attorneys.
Judge James Burke then set Weinstein’s criminal trial for September 9, while the defendant busied himself with a game of tic-tac-toe.
Baez briefly spoke to the media outside of the courthouse after the ruling, saying: ‘I feel like I won the lottery.’
He quickly added that he was ‘just kidding,’ despite being the fifth attorney to exit the defense team in the past nine months.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with two counts of rape, a count of criminal sex act and two counts of predatory sexual assault for allegedly raping a woman in 2013 and sexually assaulting another in 2006.
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Back in court: It was ruled on Thursday that Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial would begin on September 9 (Weinstein leaving the courtroom on Thursday with Donna Rotunno)
Mastermind: Weinstein spent the proceedings playing a game of tic-tac-toe, which ended in a draw (above)
The way they were: ‘Mr. Weinstein … has insisted upon taking actions with which I have fundamental disagreements,’ wrote Baez in a letter to the court (Baez and a plumper Weinstein outside court in April)
‘Mr. Weinstein has engaged in behavior that makes this representation unreasonably difficult to carry out effectively and has insisted upon taking actions with which I have fundamental disagreements,’ wrote Baez in his letter to the court.
Judge Burke granted Baez’s request, while at the same time getting Weinstein’s two new lawyers – Donna Rotunno and Damon Cheronis – to state in court that the recast defense team would not lead to any more court delays.
That safeguard was to insure this was not just a ploy to delay the upcoming trial.
A substantial portion of the court proceedings occurred out of earshot on Thursday, with Judge Burke calling Baez to the bench early on in the hearing
He then spent five minutes speaking with with Baez, who successfully defended Casey Anthony and the late Aaron Hernandez during their murder trials.
Once that aside wrapped up, Judge Burke called all the attorneys to the bench, and then spent 10 minutes speaking with both the defense and prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Weinstein had attempted to have the charges against him dismissed in a hearing back in December, but that motion was denied by the judge.
HARVEY’S DISAPPEARING DREAM TEAM
Donna Rotunno and Damon Cheronis – The Chicago-based criminal attorneys have become known for representing men accused of sexual misconduct,. Rotunno in particular has been the go-to litigator for men facing charges during the #MeToo era. She is a former Cook County prosecutor.
Diana Fabi Samson – Samson served as an Assistant District Attorney under Robert M. Morgenthau in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Morgenthau held the top post there for 44 years until 2009, when he was replaced by Cyrus Vance Jr. Samson will be up against Vance and his legal team in the case.
Marianne Bertuna & Arthur Aidala – A husband and wife team from Brooklyn. Aidala was formerly the Senior Assistant District Attorney in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office before entering the private sector. His wife got a job as an intern at the firm, which is how the two first met back in 1997.
Ben Brafman – One of the the most successful and well-known criminal defense attorneys in the country, Brafman was able to get prosecutors to drop the rape charges against former IMF President Dominique Strauss-Kahn and got Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs acquitted or a weapons charge back in 1999. He has also represented Charles Kushner, Martin Shkreli and Dinesh D’Souza – who plead guilty to making an illegal campaign contribution but was later pardoned by President Trump.
Jose Baez – The man who is perhaps the best known criminal defense lawyer in the country will be heading up the defense. He was a virtual unknown prior to 2011, but that all changed when he managed to achieve what many thought was an impossible feat by getting his client Casey Anthony acquitted of murder in the death of her daughter. A few years later he managed top that feat by getting a double acquittal for Aaron Hernandez in his second murder trial.
Ronald Sullivan – The Harvard-educated litigator was part of the team that represented President Clinton during his ongoing legal battles while in office. He now heads up the Criminal Justice Institute at the Ivy League institution after being recruited to return to his alma mater by then-dean Elena Kagan.
Pamela Robillard Mackey – She famously defended Kobe Bryant after the basketball star was charged with raping a 19-year-old woman in Colorado. Prosecutors eventually dropped that case when the victim declined to testify at the trial.
Duncan Levin – A specialist in asset forfeiture and money laundering cases, Levin worked for the US Attorney’s office and under Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance before entering the private sphere.
Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei, Amber Tamblyn, Michelle Hurd, Jennifer Esposito and Kathy Najimy were just a few of the Hollywood stars sitting in the gallery for the proceedings that day.
The women were all wearing Time’s Up shirts.
‘The court finds that there is no basis for the defendant’s claim of prosecutorial or law enforcement misconduct in the proceedings, or pervasive falsity in and around the Grand Jury presentation,’ read the judge’s ruling.
‘Moreover there is no basis in law that the conduct of law enforcement must be imputed to the prosecutor. ‘
Weinstein had argued that the Grand Jury was not presented evidence that would have established the nature of the relationship between himself and his accusers.
These included emails he sent with one victim and texts from another thanking him for his help in securing a job.
One of the women was also advised to delete text messages by a member of law enforcement.
The women chose not to speak ahead of the hearing, but Najimy did state: ‘I’m here to hear the proceeding and support survivors.’
The judge ultimately ruled that Weinstein would face rape charges, saying that the indictment would not be dismissed in the case.
The actresses who appeared in court all did so in support of the victims and Time’s Up movement.
The disgraced mogul was looking to have the five remaining charges that have been filed against him dismissed, and in a letter earlier this month his lawyer lashed out at a comment made by prosecutors.
‘The defendant has a misguided and antiquated view of how a rape victim should react after having been assaulted,’ wrote prosecutor Kevin Wilson in response to a letter submitted to the court.
In the letter, Weinstein’s lawyer wrote: ‘What is misguided and antiquated is the breathtaking assertion by the prosecution that it was free to present the Grand Jury in this case with a knowingly incomplete, untrue, and distorted picture of the true facts of this case and thereby suppress from the Grand Jury critical exculpatory evidence which went directly to Mr. Weinstein’s factual innocence of any criminal wrongdoing.’
The attack did not stop there, going on to accuse witnesses of being untruthful.
‘Contrary to what Mr. Wilson would have us believe, the issue before this Court is one of law and not political correctness,’ read the letter.
‘At the time they made their presentment to the Grand Jury in this case, the prosecution (1) failed to present witness statements which revealed material untruths told by the complaining witnesses and (2) willfully chose not to present documentary evidence which reflected immediate and then continuing contact with the alleged rapist-beginning just hours after the alleged rape and continuing on for several years thereafter.’
Dream team redux: The disgraced mogul’s new attorneys, Donna Rotunno (right) and Damon Cheronis (back left), reassured Judge Burke that this latest shake-up would not delay the trial (Diana Fabi Samson second right)
Yuck-ing it up: A substantial portion of the court proceedings occurred out of earshot on Thursday, with Judge Burke calling Baez to the bench early on in the hearing
No laughing matter: Weinstein seemed a bit more somber as he exited court after failing to beat himself at tic-tac-toe
Weinstein’s attorney previously filed a letter with the judge seeking to dismiss three of the charges that he was indicted on over the summer.
Ben Brafman, Weinstein’s attorney at that time, claimed in his letter to Judge James M Burke that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office withheld evidence from the grand jury who indicted his client and provides four emails that show Weinstein and his accuser spent time together after her alleged assault.
He also claimed that the accuser told a friend that her relationship with Weinstein was consensual.
Weinstein had previously filed a motion to dismiss the criminal charges against him in August that contained a number of emails sent by the same accuser between 2013 and 2017.
That woman, whose allegations against Weinstein resulted in charges of rape in the first degree, rape in the third degree and predatory sexual assault, wrote in the emails that Weinstein ‘is the bar’ for the movie industry and comments on his ‘smile and beautiful eyes.
In one of the emails submitted by Brafman, she also agreed to attend a screening hosted by Weinstein, just hours after she was allegedly raped by the mogul.
Documents show Weinstein’s office sent the woman an invitation to a movie screening the evening of March 18, 2013 – the day of the alleged assault.
The accuser replied, ‘I’m just going with [redacted]. Thank you [redacted].’
The letter stated that defense lawyers interviewed the friend who confirmed that she had gone to the event with the accuser and the two met Weinstein there that night.
During that interview, the friend allegedly confirmed that Weinstein and the accuser were in a ‘consensual, sexual relationship’ at the time and claimed the accuser tried to enlist her help in going after Weinstein, according Brafman.
Brafman argued that the emails, as well as the previous ones he submitted along with an earlier motion, should have been seen by members of the grand jury.
‘Had the Grand Jury been aware that [accuser] continued her friendship with Mr Weinstein hours after the alleged rape (not just in the months and years after, as evidenced by her emails), there is little chance that her narrative would have been accepted by the Grand Jury,’ Brafman states.
‘This new email evidence makes [the accuser’s] attempt even more egregious because, as it turns out, the witness was with [the accuser] hours after the alleged rape, yet [the accuser] did not say anything about being raped; instead, she chose to spend the evening with her friend and her alleged rapist!’
Guess who: Gloria Allred (above) was also on hand Thursday for the court proceedings, and spoke with the media after outside the courtroom
Witness to the defense: Weinstein had tried to have all charges against him dismissed in December, to no avail
Brafman also contended that the accuser must have talked about Weinstein in ‘glowing terms’ after an email from New Year’s Day 2014 revealed the friend had thanked the producer for ‘the things you did for [accuser] in 2013 and for the things you did for me as well.’
Those things included Oscar party invitations, dinners, premieres, and auditions, according to documents.
An earlier email from October 2013 also shows the same friend telling Weinstein that the accuser ‘adores’ him.
More than a year after the alleged rape, the accuser herself had an email exchange with Weinstein organizing dinner plans.
On July 9, 2014, Weinstein emailed the woman asking: ‘Are you around on Friday evening? I’m going to be in [redacted].’
The accuser replied: ‘There is no one else I would enjoy catching up with that understands me quite like you.’
‘I know I will be hungry, what is your timing? Do you have time for dinner?’
In a response to the December 7 filing, New York Assistant District Attorney Kevin Wilson said Brafman’s letter only repeats previous arguments made in earlier submissions – which have been contested.
He argued the findings did not constitute as exculpatory information and claimed the lawyer was using ‘one-sided, incomplete, and mischaracterized information.’
‘That the defendant has a misguided and antiquated view of how a rape victim should react after having been assaulted does not change this reality,’ Wilson wrote in a letter on Friday.
In August, Brafman asked for the charge of Criminal Sex Act to be tossed because of inconsistencies.
‘Mr. Weinstein was indicted for an alleged act of forcible oral sex by someone who claims she does not remember when it occurred and asserts only that it was purportedly sometime during a three-month period in 2004, nearly fourteen years ago,’ read the August motion.
‘He was also indicted for the rape of [email accuser], whose extensive communications and contact immediately following the now claimed forcible rape instead reflect a consensual, intimate relationship with Mr. Weinstein in an exchange of more than 400 warm, complimentary and solicitous emails with an alleged rapist for more than four years after the alleged rape, never once in those 9 communications claiming to have ever been harmed by Mr. Weinstein.’
The final email, from 2017, was less effusive than the others submitted by Weinstein, reading: ‘I love you, always do. But hate feeling like a booty call.’
That came in response to an email from Weisntein in which he tried to schedule a meeting with the woman before heading off to a redacted city.
He wrote that he could meet in the afternoon, and when the woman responded to ask the address Weinstein replied with the name of a hotel, even though he was in New York at the time.
The August filing stated that it was one year after that email, in February 2018 when, ‘upon information and belief, [Weinstein’s accuser] for the first time ever made any claim of an alleged rape to any law enforcement authority.’
Weinstein was married to his now estranged wife Georgina Chapman during the time that all 40 emails were sent.
One month after she was allegedly raped by Weinstein in a midtown hotel, the alleged victim closed out a brief message by writing: ‘Thanks, and I hope to see you sooner thank [sic] later …’
The next day she said: ‘I appreciate all you do for me, it shows.’
Three days after that she expressed a desire to see Weinstein and ‘catch up,’ a desire she again reiterated a few days later in an emails submitted as evidence in the motion.
Another email in which the woman is incredibly complimentary to Weinstein read: ‘You have mastered storytelling and continually Are outdoing yourself and the competition. You are the bar.’
She then signed off with: ‘Miss you big guy.’
One month prior she had requested a private audience with Weinstein, saying: ‘I was hoping for some time privately with you to share the direction I am going in life and catch up because its been awhile.’
The woman also gave Weinstein her contact information after changing her phone number