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Harvey Weinstein hires two new attorneys ahead of sexual assault trial

SABC News Harvey Weinstein R 1 - Harvey Weinstein hires two new attorneys ahead of sexual assault trial

Former Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, has hired two lawyers from a Chicago-based firm to join the legal team representing him in his September trial on rape and sexual assault charges, his representatives said on Thursday.

Weinstein’s spokeswoman, Juda Engelmayer, confirmed to Reuters that he had retained Donna Rotunno and Damon Cheronisa ahead of the scheduled criminal trial.

Rotunno and Cheronis could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters on Thursday evening.

Weinstein, 67, is charged in New York with forcibly performing oral sex on a woman in July 2006 and raping another woman in March 2013. He faces five charges, including rape, and a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to the five criminal charges.

The defendants are among some 70 women, mostly young actresses and women in the film industry, who have accused Weinstein of sexual assaults dating back decades. He has denied the allegations.

The accusations touched off the #MeToo movement, in which hundreds of women have publicly accused powerful men in entertainment, politics and other fields of sexual misconduct.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Rotunno, a former Chicago prosecutor who specialises in the defence of men accused of sex crimes, said in an interview that she rejected the #MeToo movement.

“I’m not a woman who has ever subscribed to it,” Rotunno told the paper. “I believe women are responsible for the choices that they make.”

Weinstein has seen a string of high-profile lawyers come and go from the case since his indictment last year.

Attorney Jose Baez asked a Manhattan justice to excuse him from the case earlier this month, the New York Post reported, saying that Weinstein had “engaged in behaviour that makes this representation unreasonably difficult to carry out effectively”.

Weinstein hired Baez and Harvard University law professor Ronald Sullivan after his former attorney Ben Brafman left the case in January. Sullivan left the case last month after his defence of Weinstein sparked an outcry at Harvard and led to his dismissal from a Dean role at the university.

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