Weinstein in search of a lawyer as trial approaches

New York (AFP) –


The main lawyer for Harvey Weinstein has asked a judge to be removed from the case, leaving the disgraced movie mogul without counsel as his sexual assault trial approaches in September.

Weinstein has been charged over the alleged assaults of two women -- a rape in 2013 and an incident of forced oral sex in 2006. He faces life in prison if convicted, and is also accused of sexual misconduct with dozens of other women.

Weinstein's first lawyer, Benjamin Braufman, withdrew in January after which Weinstein hired two other high-profile attorneys, Ronald Sullivan and Jose Baez.

Sullivan, who also teaches at Harvard, pulled out in May after coming under fierce criticism on campus for defending the man seen as giving rise to the #MeToo movement.

Once one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, Weinstein has been accused of harassment and assault by more than 80 women, including stars such as Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd.

Then last week Baez asked to withdraw from the case, New York news outlets reported. He did so in a letter to State Supreme Court Justice James Burke, who is overseeing the case.

"First, 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," Baez wrote.

"For example, he has engaged outside counsel to communicate with myself and my co-counsel and has decided to have another attorney threaten legal action against this firm," Baez said, adding that since May 15 or earlier Weinstein has known that Baez probably could not stay with the case.

Neither Baez, nor a spokesman for Weinstein nor the Manhattan prosecutor's office responded to AFP's requests for comment.

No hearing is scheduled until September 9, when jury selection is scheduled to begin in a trial that promises to be a media sensation.

It is not clear if the trial might be postponed because of Weinstein's lawyer problems.