Harvey Weinstein has hired a new team of high-profile defense attorneys—and two of them recently represented Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan.
Jose Baez and Ronald Sullivan were co-counsel on McGowan’s recent drug possession case—and the actress is furious that they will now defend the disgraced movie mogul she says raped her.
“This is a major conflict of interest but I knew there was shadiness going on behind the scenes,” she told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
“This is why my case didn’t go to trial—my instinct was my lawyers had been bought off,” she added.
“I thought Harvey would get to them behind the scenes and I wouldn’t have fair representation.”
The Charmed star pleaded no contest earlier this month to a misdemeanor drug charge as part of a no-jail deal with Virginia prosecutors who said there was cocaine in a bag she left behind on a flight in 2017.
In court papers, she had argued that people working for Weinstein could have planted the drugs as a way to discredit her as she became one of the faces of the #MeToo movement.
“I asked Jose Baez directly if he would ever work with Harvey and I told him it was my fear that he would be bought off while representing me,” McGowan said. “He responded by saying, ‘I don’t like to lose.‘”
In a statement, Baez and Sullivan told The Daily Beast: “We were pleased to represent our former client, Ms. Rose McGowan, in a matter unrelated to Mr. Weinstein’s current charges. After consultation with ethics counsel, we are certain no conflict of interest exists. We wish Ms. McGowan well with all her future endeavors.”
McGowan is one of dozens of women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct but is not involved in the Manhattan criminal case that goes to trial May 7.
Top-flight New York defense attorney Ben Brafman was representing Weinstein in the criminal case—and scored a big pre-trial win for him—but the two parted ways last week.
As The Daily Beast was first to report, even before Brafman left, Weinstein was hunting around for other big-name attorneys, hoping to assemble an O.J. Simpson-style Dream Team of several lawyers.
As the New York Post first reported Wednesday morning, Weinstein ultimately settled on Baez and Sullivan, who often work together, and Pamela Robillard Mackey.
Baez famously represented Anthony, who was acquitted in 2011 of murdering her 2-year-old daughter after a sensational trial. Sullivan, a Harvard law professor, won an acquittal for Hernandez, the late NFL star, in one of his two murder trials.
Mackey, the sole woman on the new team, successfully defended NBA star Bryant after he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a Colorado resort in 2003. Prosecutors dropped the charges on the eve of trial after the alleged victim refused to testify.
Brafman, of course, also has an impressive resume, having represented Michael Jackson, political pundit Dinesh D’Souza, “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli and other recognizable names.
In the months that he represented Weinstein, he got the criminal charges linked to one of three accusers tossed. The super-lawyer and his headstrong client began to clash when the court refused to dismiss the rest of the case, meaning Weinstein would have to face a jury of his peers.
Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood until his #MeToo downfall, has pleaded not guilty and claims any contact with women was consensual.
Legal experts who spoke to The Daily Beast have questioned Weinstein’s strategy of bringing so many high-profile attorneys on board, saying it could be disruptive to the rhythm of the case.
Asked about Baez and Sullivan’s past representation of McGowan, New York criminal defense attorney Tom Harvey told The Daily Beast: "It’s unclear to me if there is an actual conflict but why invite the scrutiny? "
Harvey, who is not connected to the Weinstein case, also noted that none of the new hires are New Yorkers like Brafman.
“The fact is there are some very good attorneys in Manhattan who are familiar with our juries, our judges and our system. Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to bring in people who are not familiar with Manhattan juries is difficult for me to understand,” Harvey said.
McGowan said she spoke to Baez a week ago and he did not mention that Weinstein had approached him.
“This does not happen overnight they have been planning it for sometime,” she said.
But, she added, “no matter who he ever gets to represent him I and every other victim of Harvey knows the truth and knows he is guilty.”