Harvey Weinstein unveiled a new legal team brimming with star power Wednesday to defend him at his upcoming New York rape and sexual assault trial.
Weinstein’s four new lawyers all have experience defending high-profile clients, including Casey Anthony, former sports stars Aaron Hernandez and Kobe Bryant and, in a strange twist, one of Weinstein’s own Hollywood accusers.
Two of the attorneys, Jose Baez and Ronald Sullivan, represented actress Rose McGowan last year in a Virginia drug case. McGowan, who pleaded no contest last week, was among the first of dozens of women who came forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault.
The pair join Bryant’s former lawyer Pamela Robillard Mackey and ex-Manhattan prosecutor Duncan Levin in representing Weinstein on what’s shaping up to be a modern version of the “dream team” that secured an acquittal for O.J. Simpson at his 1995 murder trial.
The quartet of lawyers replaces Benjamin Brafman, a tactical and pugnacious New York City defense lawyer who had been by Weinstein’s side since he was arrested and paraded out of a Manhattan police station last spring.
McGowan, who’s not involved in the criminal case, blasted the involvement of her former attorneys as a “major conflict of interest.”
“I knew there was shadiness going on behind the scenes,” the “Charmed” star told The Daily Beast. “This is why my case didn’t go to trial — my instinct was my lawyers had been bought off.”
“I thought Harvey would get to them behind the scenes and I wouldn’t have fair representation,” McGowan added.
Baez and Sullivan said in a statement that McGowan’s case had nothing to do with Weinstein and that they were certain there was no conflict.
“We were pleased to represent our former client, Ms. Rose McGowan, in a matter unrelated to Mr. Weinstein’s current charges,” the lawyers said. “After consultation with ethics counsel, we are certain no conflict of interest exists. We wish Ms. McGowan well with all her future endeavors.”
Weinstein, 66, is charged with raping an unidentified female acquaintance in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. A conviction could put him in prison for the rest of his life.
Brafman and Weinstein said in a statement last week that they had “agreed to part ways amicably.” Their split came a month after they lost a hard fought bid to get his sexual assault case thrown out.
Brafman and Weinstein are due in court Friday for a judge to formally sign off on the lawyer swap.
Baez, perhaps the best-known name on the new legal team, first gained fame for representing Anthony, the Florida mom whose televised trial in 2011 ended in an acquittal on charges accusing her of killing her young daughter.
Baez and Sullivan successfully defended New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez against murder charges in 2017. Hernandez, in prison for a 2015 murder conviction, killed himself five days later.
Mackey, who’s based in Denver, represented Bryant when the former basketball star was accused of raping a 19-year-old at a Colorado resort in 2003. The charges were dismissed when prosecutors said the accuser was no longer interested in testifying.
In a statement released through a Weinstein spokesman, Mackey said she is thrilled to work with her friends, Baez and Sullivan, and “as they said, Harvey Weinstein is innocent and we are here to exonerate him.”
Weinstein denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
“Mr. Weinstein steadfastly maintains his innocence in this matter and we are looking forward to assisting Mr. Weinstein in his defense,” Baez and Sullivan said.
The Manhattan prosecutor’s office declined comment.
New York officials face backlash over ‘congestion’ tax push
New York City is expensive. From parking to hotels to Broadway tickets, the city has a way of leaving the wallet lighter for any visitor. But it’s poised to get even pricier if a controversial new “congestion” fee comes to fruition.
With Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s backing, the proposed charge would be imposed at all Manhattan points of entry below 60th Street. While the price has not been set in stone, a report commissioned by Cuomo’s office recommends cars entering Manhattan during peak hours be charged $11.52, and trucks be charged $25.34 – on top of any bridge tolls.
The hope is that the fees eventually would help ease traffic, while sending needed funds toward public transportation, notably the city’s aging subway system.
But, on the heels of New York’s clash with Amazon that ended with the tech giant scrapping plans for a new headquarters there, the proposal is creating new economic concerns and political pushback.
Democratic state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who represents parts of Queens and Brooklyn, told Fox News that “businesses are very concerned” about the higher costs of entering Manhattan.
“Being a business person in New York City is not easy,” he said. “… Congestion pricing is hitting them over the head.”
Cuomo, in his State of the State address last month, said the fee would raise about $15 billion by 2024. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the legislation but is calling for hardship exemptions for those traveling to Manhattan for medical care – as well as upstate farmers who sell produce in Manhattan.
Phase one, meanwhile, already has been enacted as New Yorkers riding below 96th Street started seeing increased prices in their taxis, Ubers and other rides for hire since Feb. 1: $2.50 for yellow cabs; $2.75 for Uber, Lyft and Juno; and 75 cents for ridesharing cars. Cuomo reportedly says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can gain $1 million a day from the new surcharges.
But in a statement to Fox News, the Independent Drivers Guild representing over 70,000 app-based drivers blasted what it called a “sham” tax that “unjustly singles out low income for-hire drivers and their already highly-taxed riders.” The organization said the system “disproportionately hurts women, who more often opt for Uber or Lyft trips over public transit for safety reasons, especially at night.”
What comes next is not yet clear. Phase one only went into effect this month after a long legal battle. Phase two, which would extend to all drivers, would have to clear the state legislature – but could be a tough sell since the tax would affect any constituents who travel to the city.
New York City Councilman Barry Grodenchik, a Democrat representing part of Queens, worried about the impact to his constituents, many of whom rely on cars to get into Manhattan.
Leading opponent Richard Brodsky, a former Democratic assemblyman, told The New York Times last year, “This has always been a policy nostrum of the elites, sort of a big lab test in which the lab rats — the regular people — wanted no part of it.”
Supporters counter that the plan can work, and is sorely needed.
A spokesman for New York state Democratic Sen. Liz Kruger, who represents Manhattan’s east side and supports the plan, told Fox News the senator remains optimistic and “the devil is in the details.” Kruger thinks there is “a model that can be found that is equitable to all New Yorkers,” the spokesman said.
Democratic state Sen. Kevin Thomas, of Long Island, stressed the need to fund infrastructure repairs. “Much of my district commutes by train to the city, and improvements are desperately needed to the aging rail line,” he said, urging that most of the money go toward fixing the Long Island Railroad.
In Cuomo’s State of the State address, he said, “The status quo has got to go. Riders are fed up, the situation only gets worse. It’s like the old commercial: you can pay me now or you can pay me later. The system is just continuing to deteriorate and if we don’t invest now we’re going to pay more later and suffer in the meantime. … Let’s do it this year.”
Congestion pricing is not new. London has had an £11.50 surcharge since 2003, during working business hours. Los Angeles, too, is looking at a rush-hour toll system, with support from Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Open Forum: Socialist insanity: Keep your cars and your cows
As presidential wannabes launch their campaigns for 2020, they seem to stand behind New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s harebrained neo-socialist Green New Deal. But when questioned about their support for the resolution, they capitulate by referring to the deal as only “aspirational.” It makes sense to dodge the political insanity, but they should denounce the Green New Deal openly.
The very notion of Socialism in America causes people like me to cringe, but apparently a small percentage of Americans see it differently. Socialism demands equality among individuals through government ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
But to demand equality for all is a problem for some who believe that no two people are the same. Under socialism, those who administer, “or the ruling class,” divide the earnings from the sale of goods equally among those who produced them. So the ruling class creates a sense of equality that doesn’t exist.
Trying to force equality through administrative regulation and turning a blind eye to individual effort and talent ignores personal freedom and the effort to succeed. All individuals deserve the freedom to develop and improve their value in the workplace and increase their earnings. Without the freedom and incentive to produce more through innovation and increased personal effort, economic failure is likely.
Venezuela is but one example of socialism’s impact on a strong economy. From the 1950s to the early 1980s, the Venezuelan economy, buoyed by high oil prices, was one of the strongest in South America. In 1970 It was the richest country in Latin America and one of the 20 richest countries in the world. The violence, disease, and personal hardships suffered by Venezuelan citizens today, has developed over the past 20 years of rule under the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), ushered in by Hugo Chavez in 2007.
The better place for a blind eye is Ocasio-Cortez’s outlandish Green New Deal resolution. That would make more sense and better serve America since her plan would ban cars, planes, and cows, eliminate fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and offer free education to all in a mere 12 years? Get serious! American voters deserve the truth regarding economic policy platforms in America, not impossible and undoable socialist insanity that leads to economic failure.
The natural laws of physics would make most of the plan impossible. Renewable energy sources will not sustain America’s energy demands now and they never will. The money needed to support this delusional vision is unreasonable now and always will be.
I suggest that Americans keep their cars and their cows, continue to use fossil fuels to sustain energy requirements, and allow our free market system to preserve liberty and prosperity for all Americans. And the federal government should continue to protect the security and safety of our citizens and follow the mandates of our Constitution. Presidential hopefuls should be firm and dismiss the Socialist insanity!
VULGAR MESSAGE TO DONALD TRUMP IN POLITICAL CARTOON CAUSES PAPER TO DROP CARTOONIST: ‘LOOSE LIPS SINK STRIP’
A newspaper says it will stop publishing a popular cartoon after a vulgar message addressed to President Donald Trump appeared in its latest issue.
“Non Sequitur” is a syndicated cartoon by Wiley Miller and is a regular feature of the Pennsylvania publication The Butler Eagle.
Readers are encouraged to color in the three-panel, black-and-white cartoon, which this week featured a “Bearaissance” character named “Leonardo Bear Vinci.”
But on Sunday, readers spotted that a small scribbled message appears in one of the panels, which says “We fondly say go f*** yourself…Trump.”
Ron Vodenichar, Eagle publisher and general manager was unhappy with the message, which was brought to his attention after a reader spotted it.
In a Butler Eagle article headlined “Loose lips sink strip: cartoonist fired for cure,” Vodenichar was quoted as saying that the message was “apparently placed there by someone in the creative department of the creator of the comic strip or the syndication which controls it.
“Neither The Butler Eagle nor any other newspaper that includes this strip had an opportunity to remove it even if they had discovered it before distribution.
“We apologize that such a disgusting trick was perpetuated on the reading public. The Butler Eagle will discontinue that comic immediately,” Vodenichar said.
The strip is distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication whose website states that it appears in more than 700 newspapers. It is unclear if other publications will follow suit.
In a tweet, Miller appeared to refer to the message, by saying: “”some of my sharp-eyed readers have spotted a little Easter egg. … Can you find it?”
Miller does not hide his contempt for Trump on Twitter. After the State of the Union address, he tweeted on February 6: “Trump’s SOTU address was essentially that guy yelling at his bloodied wife, ‘WHY DO YOU MAKE ME KEEP HITTING YOU?'”
On immigration, he referred to him as “the Gaslighter-in-Chief” who presents “zero evidence to support this claim” about the numbers of people coming into the country from Mexico.
In response to reports that Trump had blamed the Democrats for faltering talks on the border wall, Miller tweeted: “The gaslighting projectionist explains it all. Such a stable genius.”
The negotiators for the Republicans and the Democrats had hoped that a deal would be struck by Monday so Congress could pass the legislation in time for the February 15 cut-off date.
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