After a hearing Thursday morning in Manhattan two months before the criminal trial of Harvey Weinstein, the fallen mogul’s new defense lawyer blasted the #MeToo movement as she stepped into the spotlight.
“The emotion of this case has taken over,” attorney Donna Rotunno said in a post-hearing news conference alongside fellow defender, Damon Cheronis. “There is a truth you have not reported on.”
During her brief remarks, Rotunno said Weinstein, who faces five counts of sexual assault and misconduct stemming from reported incidents in 2006 and 2013, has been “railroaded” by the #MeToo movement. “Movements allow emotion to take over,” she said. Weinstein has maintained, via two previous legal defense teams, that the sexual encounters were consensual.
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As Deadline reported on Tuesday, the attorneys, who have been on the scene for less than two weeks, reached an agreement with New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke not to request any further delays in the case. By the time of the trial, it will have been nearly two full years since the cascade of accusations from dozens of women began. Authorities in other cities have investigated Weinstein but as yet have not brought charges.
Next week in Delaware, a key hearing in the long-running Weinstein Co. bankruptcy case will determine if the proceeding can be converted from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7. If that conversion is allowed, a settlement compensating creditors and alleged victims will not be able to proceed. A reported settlement offer of $44 million was criticized by several accusers for being too low.
Thursday’s hearing was a procedural one, with the bulk of it consisting of bench conferences during which Burke and attorneys from both sides discussed issues such as jury selection, the next major phase of the pre-trial period. Jose Baez, Weinstein’s previous lead attorney who has represented the likes of Casey Anthony, also appeared in the courtroom to get Burke’s OK for the switch of attorneys. Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Harvey Weinstein gave his assent to Burke for the changing of the guard with a simple “yes.”
Gloria Allred, who represents one of the alleged victims as well as one witness in the criminal trial, held her own news conference outside the courtroom. She released a statement cataloging Rotunno’s statements in media appearances about the advantages conferred upon her by her gender. In a June story in the Wall Street Journal, as Allred recounted, Rotunno criticized the #MeToo movement, telling the paper that women needed to be held accountable for their actions.
“I agree that women should be responsible for their choices, but when will Mr. Weinstein be responsible for his?” Allred said. “Many accusers allege that Mr. Weinstein lured them to his hotel room under false pretenses that he wanted to assist them in their careers. I challenge Mr. Weinstein to testify under oath and deny this. We will see then who the jury believes.”
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