The list of charges at Harvey Weinstein’s feet is long, and includes sexual assault and rape. He allegedly sexually assaulted one of his production assistants in 2006. He allegedly raped a woman when they shared a hotel in 2013. These are the charges that might stick, even though there are dozens and dozens of accusers who have shared similar stories over the last year. One might think it difficult to defend Weinstein in this kind of case, but the reputation of his new lawyer throws it all into question.
Weinstein was at odds with his former attorney, Benjamin Brafman, about how to move forward with the case. Brafman accused investigators of withholding evidence needed as part of the discovery process while at the same time arguing that Weinstein’s sexual encounters were all consensual. It wasn’t sexual assault, he said. It wasn’t rape, he said.
Now, Weinstein has a new lawyer, and one with a big name at that. His name is Jose Baez, and he first rose to prominence in 2011 during one of the decade’s most scrutinized cases: Casey Anthony, who was charged with capital murder when her 2-year-old daughter was found dead. No one expected an acquittal. No one expected the then small-time criminal defense attorney Baez to pose any problem for the prosecutors assigned to the case. Oh, but he did. Anthony was freed after the six-week trial.
Baez’s newfound popularity led him to his next big case: Aaron Hernandez. He scored another shocking win, and Hernandez went free after escaping the double murder charge for which he stood trial.
The Weinstein case seems almost tailor-made for Baez, who almost always defends those who are reviled by the greater part of society. But what else do we know about him?
He was a high school dropout, leaving as early as ninth grade. From there he joined the U.S. Navy when he was old enough, successfully obtained his GED, enrolled in a community college, and then transferred to Florida State University. He continued his education at St. Thomas University, scored an internship at the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office, before failing to convince the Florida Board of Bar Examiners to accept him. They argued he was delinquent on child support and lied about it. He also has a simple assault on his record, a 1990 bankruptcy, and attended a diversion program after writing a bad check. He finally made the bar in 2005, after which he mostly defended DUIs and other small cases, and lost a case when defending a man accused of murder. Then he landed the Casey Anthony case, and the rest is history.