Harvey Weinstein’s new legal team was made official on Friday, though a judge asked him questions relating to how his incoming lawyers had represented Rose McGowan — who has accused Weinstein of rape.
Justice James Burke’s decision granting the restructuring of Weinstein’s legal team finalized the departure of high-profile lawyer Benjamin Brafman, who had been handling his case. Weinstein and Brafman had purportedly been at odds prior to officially announcing their split last week.
Weinstein’s new legal team, announced Wednesday, includes Jose Baez, who defended Casey Anthony; Ronald Sullivan, who defended onetime New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez; and Pamela Robillard Mackey, who defended former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.
The atmosphere in the courtroom appeared amicable on the defense side after Weinstein, Baez, and Sullivan walked in shortly before 9:30. Brafman, Baez, and Sullivan all shook hands. Brafman and Weinstein also chatted briefly.
During the proceeding green-lighting the change, Burke asked Weinstein about whether he was aware that Baez and Sullivan had defended McGowan for her drug case in Virginia — especially in light of the fact that McGowan said Weinstein might somehow be involved in that prosecution.
“It’s my understanding that there is a potential conflict of interest involving at least Mr. Baez and Mr. Sullivan … since they have recently represented the actress Rose McGowan, who has been one of your most vocal accusers, is that fair to say?”
“Yes,” Weinstein answered.
“Have you discussed it with Mr. Brafman?” Burke pressed.
“Have you discussed it with your new attorneys?”
“Furthermore, at least in a general sense, [McGowan] accused you of having the cocaine planted in her wallet, are you aware of that?”
Burke also asked about emails that several lawyers had in which Weinstein discussed “planting” evidence.
Brafman later interjected, telling Burke: “He was commenting on the absurdity of the allegation, not the truthfulness of the allegation.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Burke said. “Do you understand that it doesn’t matter if you thought it was ridiculous or not?
Burke pointed out that if McGowan testified — pointing out that the district attorney “doesn’t anticipate calling her, but is not in a position to say absolutely that she would never in any circumstance be called” — it could create complications for cross-examination.
“Do you waive any conflict that might pose?” Burke later asked.
“Absolutely,” Weinstein responded.
“This is a major conflict of interest, but I knew there was shadiness going on behind the scenes,” McGowan reportedly said to the Daily Beast after they announced that Weinstein had hired them.
Weinstein faces five counts in New York for alleged nonconsensual encounters with two women — Mimi Haleyi and a still-unnamed accuser.
Weinstein had been facing six counts, but Burke agreed in October to dismiss one relating to accuser Lucia Evans, who claimed that Weinstein forced her into oral sex.