The actress Rose McGowan was one of the first to come forward with allegations that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her. According to McGowan, Weinstein raped her in 1997. She signed a nondisclosure agreement with Weinstein in 1997 that prohibited her from speaking out about the incident. Weinstein is currently being tried in New York for unrelated sex crimes.
Allegations of sexual misconduct began pouring in against Weinstein in 2017. In February of that year, McGowan was criminally charged for cocaine possession. She eventually hired Jose Baez, an attorney most famous for defending Casey Anthony against murder charges, to represent her as trial counsel, according to Baez. McGowan ultimately pled no contest to the charges in 2019 and served no jail time.
After the plea, Jose Baez agreed to defend Weinstein as part of his team of attorneys. Baez said he referred the matter to an ethics attorney before taking on Weinstein as a client and does not believe there is a conflict of interest in the matter. Baez did not represent McGowan in any matter related to sexual assault.
On January 21, Baez filed a defamation lawsuit against McGowan in Cook County, alleging that McGowan defamed the firm to clear her name regarding the conviction for cocaine possession.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, McGowan alleged that Baez had been bought off by Weinstein - and that was the reason her own criminal case never went to trial. McGowan has suggested Weinstein could have planted the cocaine to discredit her, and said of Baez in a New York Times article that he is “a truly terrible human and a disgrace of a lawyer."
In his complaint, Baez says McGowan's comments harmed his professional standing. He is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.
Law schools could devote an entire course on the ethical issues surrounding the representation of Harvey Weinstein. For example, Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. lost his position as a Harvard law professor for representing Weinstein as co-counsel with Baez. In October, McGowan sued attorneys Lisa Bloom and David Boes for allegedly helping Weinstein initiate a smear campaign against her. Donna Rotunno is currently representing Weinstein and is under scrutiny by some for her comments regarding the #MeToo movement. While Weinstein may soon be convicted, the legal issues surrounding his behavior are sure to linger for some time.