Benjamin Brafman is preparing to ask a New York Supreme Court justice to permit him to withdraw as counsel for Harvey Weinstein in the disgraced movie mogul’s sexual assault case, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
Weinstein stands accused of two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, as well as counts of first-degree criminal sexual act, first-degree rape and third-degree rape.
Brafman of Brafman & Associates, who declined to comment, has not yet filed to withdraw, according to a source. Weinstein’s case is scheduled to go to trial in May and a pretrial conference has been scheduled for March 7, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Brafman will need approval from Acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James Burke to withdraw from the case.
Brafman was successful in beating a sixth charge against Weinstein, first-degree criminal sexual act, after it was revealed that the New York City police detective that led the investigation into Weinstein did not tell prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that a witness who gave an account of Weinstein’s alleged sexual assault of Lucia Evans in 2004 contradicted what Evans told police.
But Weinstein’s legal team failed in its subsequent bid to get the rest of his charges dismissed, in which they alleged that prosecutors failed to present evidence to a grand jury that Weinstein maintained consensual relationships with his accusers.
Burke found that the grand jury proceedings, for which Weinstein declined to testify, were conducted properly and that the dismissal of the charges relating to Lucia Evans had no bearing on the charges pertaining to the other accusers.
The judge also said there was no basis for allegations by Weinstein’s attorneys that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. bowed to political pressure in deciding to bring the case against Weinstein.
The news that Brafman is seeking to withdraw as counsel in the case comes days after reports that the prominent criminal defense attorney, whose star-studded clientele has included Sean Combs and Martin Shkreli, clashed with Weinstein and that Weinstein has been shopping around for a new attorney.
The New York Post reported Sunday night that reports of Weinstein seeking to expand his legal team took Brafman by surprise. Citing unnamed sources, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Weinstein had pushed his attorneys to take a more aggressive approach to clear his name.
The two remaining accusers in the case are Mimi Haleyi, a production assistant who says the producer forced himself on her in 2006, and an accuser who is unnamed in court filings who says that Weinstein assaulted her in 2013.
Prosecutors say that the detective, Nicholas DiGaudio, also told the accuser from 2013 to delete files from cellphones that were turned in as evidence.