Harvey Weinstein appeared in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday morning to switch his legal team just two months before he’s expected to stand trial.
The one-time powerful movie mogul was charged in May 2018 for rape and sexual assault. Since then, he’s changed his legal team twice.
His new defense attorneys, Damon Cheronis and Donna Rotunno, stepped in to replace Ronald Sullivan and Jose Baez, who on Thursday asked to be excused from the case. The two lawyers reportedly decided to part ways with Weinstein after facing pressure from the public and not getting along with their client.
Weinstein didn’t say much at the hearing. But he smiled and said “hi” to an attendee as he made his way to his seat.
In January, Weinstein’s original lawyer left his team, leading to a delay in the trial to May 2019, which was then delayed again to a new start date of September 9.
The Chicago-based team of Cheronis and Rotunno will join other defense members Arthur Aidala and Marianne Bertuna. The trial is expected to begin in two months. This will be Cheronis and Rotunno’s first time leading a court case in New York City.
The once prolific movie mogul pleaded not guilty to five counts of rape and sexual assault involving two different women, Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and an unidentified woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013. If convicted, he could face life in prison. There have been more than 60 other women who have since come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault, including actress Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd, and if granted by Justice Burke, other female accusers might be able to testify in order to stoke the fire for the prosecution’s case.
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In June, Rotunno had something to say about the #MeToo movement to The Wall Street Journal.
“I’m not a woman who has ever subscribed to it,” she told the Journal. “I believe women are responsible for the choices that they make.”
Gloria Allred, attorney representing the two accusers, responded to this comment outside the courthouse in a press conference.
“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.”
At a previous hearing in April, Assistant District Attorney for the prosecution Joan Illuzzi indicated that their side of the case should take about three weeks to complete, and Baez indicated that the defense would need about one week in response. As for the jury selection process, that should take about two weeks. At the July 11 court appearance, Illuzzi and Aidala agreed on an August 15 date to share witness lists and their total discovery findings with each other.
In a press conference after the court appearance, Rotunno introduced herself to the press, adding that she and Cheronis are dedicated to uncovering the truth about what transpired during these encounters.
“The story that we’ve heard up until this point has been very one-sided,” she said. “I can promise you that there is a truth that you have not reported on. We are here to uncover that truth over the course of the next several weeks.”