Disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has sued to recover $1 million in legal fees from his criminal defense attorney who dropped him after six months.
Weinstein, who was convicted in February 2020 of sexual assault and rape, alleged in a state court complaint in Manhattan late on Tuesday that his former attorney Jose Baez botched their initial contract and the invoicing for the legal work he performed.
This, Weinstein claims in his complaint, violating professional conduct rules and New York law, with Baez allegedly refusing to refund the fees.
Weinstein in his lawsuit said he agreed in January 2019 to pay Baez $2 million to cover trial and post-trial proceedings in his criminal case.
The engagement agreement allegedly called for payments in $200,000 monthly instalments on a 'work on a fee-for-service basis.'
Baez was paid $1 million under the agreement, the complaint says, but Weinstein now alleges the agreement contained an 'unlawful and misleading non-refundable retainer clause' and other violations of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct.
Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein (right) has sued to recover $1 million in legal fees from his criminal defense attorney Jose Baez (center) who dropped him after six months. The lawsuit says Baez delegated most work to Weinstein's other attorney, Harvard University law professor Ronald Sullivan (pictured left)
The lawsuit says Baez delegated most work to Weinstein's other attorney, Harvard University law professor Ronald Sullivan.
After Sullivan withdrew in May 2019 following an outcry at Harvard, Baez allegedly threatened to quit unless Weinstein immediately paid him another $1 million, contravening the terms of the agreement.
Baez asked for the court's leave to withdraw a month later.
In a letter to Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James Burke obtained by The New York Post, Baez wrote that 'Mr. Weinstein has engaged in behavior that makes this representation unreasonably difficult to carry out effectively and has insisted upon taking actions with which I have fundamental disagreements.'
Weinstein alleges that Baez never provided him with any invoices until October 2020.
Baez's colleague, Michelle Medina, allegedly produced a spreadsheet with an accounting of the firm's work that was riddled with problems, such as being vague and duplicative, and 'was clearly designed to unlawfully retain Weinstein's $1,000,000.00 refundable payment.'
Weinstein alleged that the defendants have not refunded him or responded to his objections about how he was billed. The complaint alleges breach of contract, unjust enrichment and fraud, among other claims.
Jospeh Tacopina, a New York litigator who is representing Baez, Medina and their firm, slammed Weinstein's claims as 'audacious lies' in a statement.
'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.
Tacopina is the senior partner and lead trial attorney at Tacopina Seigel Trial Lawyers, and has counted Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder, rapper Jay Z, and Fox News' Sean Hannity as clients.
Gary Kavulich of Kavulich & Associates, who represents Weinstein, said he 'is entitled to fair and legal treatment by his own attorneys and that is all he wanted here.'
Baez is known for previously representing Casey Anthony, who was found not guilty in 2011 of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in a high-profile criminal case.
He also represented former NFL player and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted of the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013.
Baez (left) is known for previously representing Casey Anthony (center), who was found not guilty in 2011 of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in a high-profile criminal case
Baez (left) also represented former NFL player and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez (center), who was convicted of the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. Ronald Sullivan is seen right
The case is Harvey Weinstein v. Jose Baez, et al., New York County Supreme Court, Index No. Unassigned.
Last week, Weinstein was told he is running out of legal avenues to stop his extradition to Los Angeles, where he faces a further 11 charges of rape and sexual assault.
He is currently serving a 23-year sentence at a maximum security prison near Buffalo, New York, after he was found guilty in March 2020.
Weinstein was seen during the virtual Zoom hearing on Friday morning from his prison, during which Erie County Judge Kenneth Case indicated he would be sent to Los Angeles in 30 days - on May 30, 2021 - to face further charges.
The 69-year-old's lawyers have sought to delay their client's extradition to Los Angeles for as long as possible, making the case that he should stay in one place for treatment for a range of health issuers.
Last month, they argued that extradition papers were not in order, and he was given a brief reprieve from extradition.
However, unless embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo intervenes or he successfully contests the arrest, Weinstein appears destined to be sent to LA.
'We don't need to come back,' the judge said during Friday's hearing. 'He has 30 days to contest the arrest or have the governor disapprove of the transfer.'
Pictured: Harvey Weinstein appears from prison, during a virtual hearing regarding possible extradition to California to face further sexual assault charges, before Erie County Court Judge Kenneth Case in Buffalo, New York, U.S. April 30, 2021
Attorney Norman Effman told the judge that he will file paperwork within the next 30 days that will likely require another court appearance concerning Weinstein's extradition.
Weinstein has been at the Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo since last spring after being convicted in New York City of a criminal sex act and third-degree rape.
Los Angeles prosecutors are seeking his transfer on charges of assaulting five women in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills from 2004 to 2013.
There, he faces 11 counts of rape a sexual assault, which could in theory carry a maximum sentence of 140 years.
Weinstein appeared remotely last Thursday from a prison conference room for the hearing, which, Erie County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin Gable said should start a 30-day clock on his extradition.
Judge Kenneth Case agreed, noting that only a challenge from Weinstein or an objection from the governor would halt the process.
'I can tell you I intend to file and I will do it as quickly as possible,' his attorney, Norman Effman, said. He did not say what would be in the filing.
Last week, Weinstein was told he is running out of legal avenues to stop his extradition to Los Angeles , where he faces a further 11 charges of rape and sexual assault. Pictured: , Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan court in 2020 [file photo]
Weinstein initially was charged in California in a criminal complaint, and then indicted by a grand jury on March 15.
He maintains his innocence and contends that any sexual activity was consensual.
Effman earlier requested a 'humanitarian' delay of Weinstein's already pandemic-delayed extradition to attend to his medical needs, but the request was denied by California prosecutors.
Weinstein, the lawyer said, is scheduled to undergo two medical procedures, an eye surgery and a dental procedure.
He said earlier this month that Weinstein is 'almost technically blind' and has lost four teeth while behind bars. He also survived a bout with the coronavirus in March.
A jury found Weinstein guilty of raping an aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting a production assistant at his apartment in 2006 by forcibly performing oral sex on her.
The Hollywood producer's lawyers have appealed his 2020 conviction.
Weinstein was acquitted of first-degree rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault stemming from actor Annabella Sciorra's allegations of a mid-1990s rape.
Accusations against Weinstein in 2017 were seen by many as being the spark for the #MeeToo movement, that led to countless women across the globe coming out and sharing their experiences of sexual abuse - both in the workplace and at home.