NEW YORK (AFP) – Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer facing trial on sexual assault charges, has recruited a new team of top lawyers after New York legal eagle Ben Brafman withdrew from the defence.

Florida trial lawyer Jose Baez said he and Harvard Law professor Ronald Sullivan have signed up to defend the 66-year-old producer, who has been charged with two sexual assaults in New York City.

Baez gained attention for his 2008 acquittal of Casey Anthony, a mother charged with the murder of her daughter, and Sullivan is considered a specialist in criminal cases deemed “impossible” to defend.

“Mr Weinstein steadfastly maintains his innocence in this matter and we are looking forward to assisting Mr Weinstein in his defence.”

Since October 2017, Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than 80 women, including prominent actresses such as Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie.

The case brought in New York is the only one that has resulted in criminal proceedings against Weinstein.

Brafman succeeded in getting charges dropped against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, an IMF chief accused of sexual assault by a hotel maid, in 2011.

He won an important victory for Weinstein in October.

The Manhattan prosecutor, who had initially charged him with assaulting three women, had to drop the charges against one of them because of errors in the investigation.

But prosecutions continue for the alleged assaults on the other two women.

The next hearing is scheduled for March 7, and the Weinstein trial could begin in May.

Baez recently defended actress Rose McGowan, one of the women whose sexual assault charges against the famous Hollywood producer sparked the Weinstein scandal in October 2017, then the #MeToo movement.

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