Harvey Weinstein wants his money back.
The imprisoned producer — who is awaiting extradition to Los Angeles — filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Jose Baez, one of several lawyers who briefly represented him in his New York rape case.
He is seeking the return of $1 million in legal fees, arguing that Baez failed to substantiate the charges.
Baez — the Florida attorney best known for winning the Casey Anthony case — was Weinstein’s lawyer for about five months in 2019. Baez charged a non-refundable retainer of $200,000 per month. Under their original agreement, Baez anticipated charging a total of $2 million over 10 months.
According to the complaint, Weinstein became dissatisfied with Baez’s representation. The suit alleges that Baez was “regularly preoccupied with other matters, regularly unavailable to communicate to Weinstein, and not directly involved with the compilation, investigation, research, and drafting of various high priority substantive legal work.”
Much of that work was delegated to Baez’s co-counsel, Ronald Sullivan, a Harvard law professor who ended up withdrawing from the case under heavy public pressure in May 2019.
According to the suit, Baez pledged to stay on the case after Sullivan withdrew. But he also threatened to back out, and at one point demanded immediate payment of the $1 million he had not yet received, the suit alleges. Baez informed the court he, too, was withdrawing in June 2019.
Baez is represented by Joe Tacopina, the New York power lawyer who appeared with Baez on the short-lived Fox reality show “You the Jury.” In a statement, Tacopina said Weinstein was a “rapist” who had made a “legal blunder” by suing Baez and thereby waiving attorney-client privilege.
“Harvey Weinstein’s lawsuit against Jose Baez and his firm is nothing more than yet another predatory act by a vile fiend, utterly lacking in credibility,” Tacopina said. “Unable to satisfy his sick deviant interests by preying upon vulnerable women from behind bars, Weinstein, the rapist, has sought to satisfy his avarice by seeking a financial windfall to which he is not entitled. In yet another legal blunder, Weinstein’s lawsuit has opened the door to disclosure of damning statements by him which would otherwise have been shielded by the attorney-client privilege. Despite Weinstein’s penchant for bullying, Jose Baez is an upstanding pillar of the legal community who will not be pushed around and looks forward to exposing Weinstein’s claims for what they are, audacious lies.”
After Baez dropped out of the case, Weinstein hired Donna Rotunno and Damon Cheronis, who led the trial defense in early 2020, along with Arthur Aidala. Weinstein was found guilty of third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sexual act, and was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Aidala’s firm is now handling his appeal.
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