October 15, 2017 / 6:51 PM / 2 years ago

Lawyer who threatened defamation suit against New York Times leaves Weinstein defense: source

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Attorney Charles Harder has withdrawn from the legal team of Harvey Weinstein after previously threatening to sue the New York Times over its reports that the movie producer had been the target of sexual harassment complaints, said a source familiar with the matter on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Film producer Harvey Weinstein attends the 2016 amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan, New York February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

The New York Times reported on Oct. 5 that Weinstein, 65, had reached eight previously undisclosed settlements with women who accused him of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact. The New Yorker magazine then reported on Oct. 10 that 13 women claimed Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them.

Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the allegations. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

When the New York Times report that included claims spanning over 30 years was published, Weinstein released an initial statement to the paper obtained by Reuters apologizing for his behavior. Harder subsequently put out a statement saying the newspaper’s story was defamatory because it relied on “mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report.”

The source confirmed Harder had withdrawn from representing Weinstein on Tuesday but did not give further details.

A representative for Weinstein, Sallie Hofmeister, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Harder is most well-known for representing professional wrestler Hulk Hogan who sued Gawker Media LLC, which previously owned Gawker.com, for defamation and won a $140 million judgment against the online news and gossip website.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which runs the Oscars, expelled Weinstein on Saturday in a sharp rebuke for the Hollywood mogul known for powering a string of films to Oscar gold.

The academy said in a statement that its 54-member board of governors “voted well in excess of the required two-thirds majority to immediately expel him from the Academy.”

The New York Police Department also said this week it was investigating an allegation of sexual assault from 2004 against Weinstein.

His accusers include the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who told The New York Times that she was sexually harassed by Weinstein more than 20 years ago, and actress and director Angelina Jolie, who told the publication that she “had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth and as a result chose never to work with him again.”

Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Mary Milliken

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