Weinstein sues lawyer Jose Baez, seeks return of $1M in fees

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NEW YORK (AP) – Harvey Weinstein wants his money back.

The convicted rapist is suing his one-time attorney, Jose Baez, for breach of contract and seeking reimbursement of $ 1 million in legal fees he paid to the high-profile attorney for a brief period on his legal team.

Weinstein claims Baez was regularly engaged in other matters, pawned important work on other lawyers, was often unable to speak to him about his rape case in New York City, and later produced fraudulent accounting records.

Baez, a Florida-based attorney best known for representing Casey Anthony, joined Weinstein’s defense in January 2019 and left the company six months later. He said the former film mogul tarnished his relationship by only communicating through other lawyers and not adhering to a fee agreement.

Weinstein claims in the lawsuit filed Tuesday that he agreed to pay Baez and another attorney $ 2 million in monthly payments of $ 200,000 for their defense work on the landmark #MeToo case, but Baez opposed violated New York law by stating in his agreement that his guardian was non-refundable and non-negotiable.

Messages seeking comment were left for Baez.

Weinstein, 69, was convicted in February 2020 of rape an aspiring actress in 2013 and violent oral sex with a production assistant in 2006. He is serving a 23-year sentence in the state prison. Last month, his attorneys filed appeal papers demanding retrial.

Weinstein is also facing a likely extradition to California, where he is accused of assaulting five women in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills from 2004 to 2013.

Details of Weinstein’s lawsuit against Baez were reported in Law 360.

Weinstein hired Baez, Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan, and two other lawyers after breaking up with Benjamin Brafman, the combative New York defense attorney, who had been with him since his arrest in 2018.

Baez first rose to fame for standing in for Anthony, the Florida mother whose television trial in 2011 resulted in an acquittal for accused of killing her young daughter. Baez and Sullivan successfully defended Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots against murder charges in 2017. Hernandez, who was in jail on a 2015 murder conviction, killed himself five days later.

Sullivan left Weinstein’s case in May amid backlash over his involvement.

Weinstein then asked Baez for a billing of his work, but Baez refused and threatened to leave the case unless he was immediately given a million dollars to cover the remainder of the agreed fee under Weinstein’s lawsuit.

Several weeks later, Baez wrote to the judge presiding over the case that Weinstein was making it “unreasonably difficult” to represent him and insisted on taking action “with which I have fundamental disagreements”.

In July 2019, Judge James Burke approved Baez’s departure from the case. As he left the courtroom, Baez said, “I feel like I’ve won the lottery. Was just a joke.”

Weinstein continued to press the question of legal fees with Baez, and last September his attorney requested a full record of Baez’s work on the case.

Baez’s office responded with a table showing charges of $ 1,028,227.

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak