Benjamin Brafman, the lawyer currently defending disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein in his rape trial, reportedly plans to withdraw from the case. The NY Times cites anonymous sources "familiar with the discussions," who predict Brafman will announce his decision in court on Thursday.
The reason for Brafman's allegedly imminent departure does not appear to be the moral burden I'd think would come with attempting to clear the name of a man at least 87 women have accused of abuses ranging from verbal harassment to groping to coerced sex to assault to rape. In an interview with Esquire, Brafman recently clarified that he is "not the morality police," and according to Page Six, his rumored departure may have more to do with clashing egos. The gossip rag reports that Weinstein wanted to grow his legal team, which led to a "blowout argument" between attorney and client, an argument that ended in talks about Brafman stepping down. At time of publication, Brafman had not responded to our request for comment, but we will update if he does.
Speaking to Esquire, Brafman said Weinstein's case appealed to him because he has "never been a fan of indictment by the newspaper, or destruction by movement." He also described Weinstein as a "relentless," "hands-on client," "the type of guy who gets a second opinion on his tuna salad." And while Brafman also acknowledged that he could "take the abuse" Weinstein dealt "better than most," it would seem he also has his limits.
Page Six notes that Brafman will need to get permission from Manhattan Criminal Court Justice James Burke before he can leave, but according to the Times, Brafman's quitting could push the trial's start date past May, when it was originally scheduled to begin. Brafman's withdrawal could also be a big loss for Weinstein, as Brafman has successfully defended a number of high-profile clients in criminal incidents including, but not limited to, gun possession, bribery, breaking campaign finance law, stabbing, and sexual assault. Esquire called him "a natural performer" in front of a jury, and an uncommonly persuasive one, which is how he gets his wins.
Weinstein faces only five charges for his alleged predatory misconduct, after Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance dropped one charge against him in October. Waves of reports detailing Weinstein's allegedly decades-long pattern of sexual predation—specifically, how he allegedly lured women in the industry into hotel rooms when they met him for business meetings, leveraging his power to make or break their careers in exchange for certain sex acts—emerged in October 2017, sparking the #MeToo movement. Weinstein was charged the following May.
He now faces five charges stemming from two separate incidents: One in which a woman alleges Weinstein raped her, and another in which a woman alleges Weinstein performed oral sex on her without consent. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty, saying his sexual encounters were consensual.
The prosecution has jumped its own hurdles, including that dropped charge and reports of investigative bungling by the NYPD. According to the Times, Weinstein will return to court in March, and we should know more about his defense situation tomorrow.