Harvey Weinstein‘s legal team has been a revolving door of sorts lately, but is that going to change? Weinstein, once again, has a new attorney: Donna Rotunno.
The Chicago-area defense lawyer is known for representing men accused of sexual assault. Rotunno will represent Weinstein in New York Supreme Court, where Weinstein faces rape and sexual assault allegations. Rotunno will be joined by attorney Damon Cheronis. Their client, disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, has pleaded not guilty and has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
Chicago Magazine profiled Rotunno in Feb. 2018 with the story, “The Defender: In the #MeToo Era, Criminal Defense Attorney Donna Rotunno Might Easily Be Seen as a Traitor to Her Sex, But to Her Clients, She’s a Hero.”
In the profile, Rotunno said she has the ability to “get away with a lot more in a courtroom cross-examining a female than a male lawyer does.”
“He may be an excellent lawyer, but if he goes at that woman with the same venom that I do, he looks like a bully,” she said. “If I do it, nobody even bats an eyelash. And it’s been very effective.”
Rotunno’s extensive experience and cross-examination skill (i.e., her demonstrated ability to expose inconsistencies in accusations while not looking like a bully) could prove to be a major upgrade for Weinstein. Here’s more from that profile on Rotunno’s qualifications:
It’s roughly the 40th sexual-misconduct-related case the 42-year-old Rotunno has handled as a criminal defense attorney in the past 15 years, making her by one estimate (conveyed to Rotunno by a law firm that had researched her before hiring her) the busiest female attorney in this particular niche in the country.
More recently, Rotunno told the Wall Street Journal that she is not a woman “who has ever subscribed” to the #MeToo movement:
Ms. Rotunno, a former Cook County prosecutor who specializes in representing men accused of sex crimes, said in an interview that the #MeToo movement has done a disservice to women. “I’m not a woman who has ever subscribed to it,” she said. “I believe women are responsible for the choices that they make.”
She said that by representing Mr. Weinstein, she hoped to encourage women to take responsibility for their actions, “and say to women, ‘Maybe don’t go to the hotel room, maybe we are having a different conversation.’”
Rotunno’s representation of Weinstein follows a series of high-profile attorney arrivals and departures.
Weinstein’s reported raucous fights over strategy with defense attorney Benjamin Brafman led to Brafman’s withdrawal from the case. Along with Casey Anthony‘s lawyer Jose Baez came Ron Sullivan and Pam Mackey, who once represented Kobe Bryant. All three of them have withdrawn from the case; Baez said Weinstein “engaged in behavior that makes this representation unreasonably difficult” and that Weinstein “deliberately disregarded our fee agreement and has had outside counsel indicate that he intends to continue to do so.”
Weinstein’s trial on charges of first-degree rape, third-degree rape, predatory sexual assault, and criminal sexual act in the first degree is currently scheduled to begin on Sept. 9.
[Image via Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images]