Amid media circus, lawyer asks Loudoun Co. judge to waive McGowan’s presence

LEESBURG, Va. — Rose McGowan’s felony drug case was already the most-publicized cocaine possession case in Loudoun County history — and then Harvey Weinstein was indicted.

On Monday, McGowan’s attorney will ask a judge to allow her to not appear at an upcoming hearing, in part because of the intense media scrutiny McGowan’s case generates.

Earlier this month, a Loudoun County District Court judge found probable cause to send McGowan’s case to the grand jury.

McGowan was charged after a plane-cleaning crew at Dulles International Airport found her wallet on the floor near her seat after she got off a United flight from Los Angeles in January 2017.

Inside McGowan’s wallet were two plastic bags, which allegedly tested positive for cocaine.

In previous motions, McGowan’s attorneys have suggested the cocaine was planted, perhaps by someone working for Weinstein.

This week, McGowan attorney James Hundley sent a letter to the chief judge of the Loudoun County Circuit Court, requesting his client be allowed to waive her scheduled term-day appearance on June 12.

In Virginia, the day after an indictment, a defendant makes an appearance in court to set an arraignment date. The hearing is almost always perfunctory.

Earlier this week, however, Weinstein was indicted in New York on two counts of rape and one other sex crime, in connection with two women.

In 2017, McGowan became one of the first, and most outspoken, women in Hollywood to allege Weinstein sexually assaulted or harassed her.

Weinstein has not been charged with assaulting or harassing McGowan. He has maintained that all of his involvement with women was consensual.

Yet Weinstein’s indictment will probably bring additional coverage in McGowan’s case.

In his letter, Hundley wrote: “This case has garnered a great deal of media attention. Waiving Ms. McGowan’s appearance at term day could help avoid disruptions that the media’s presence might cause to the court’s calling of its term day docket.”

In requesting the waiver, Hundley noted that McGowan has traveled from California or Los Angeles on three separate occasions for Loudoun County proceedings.

Special prosecutor Paul Ebert did not oppose the waiver request. A hearing to discuss the waiver is scheduled in Circuit Court for June 4.

Ebert, the commonwealth’s attorney for Prince William County, is trying McGowan, after Loudoun prosecutor Jim Plowman recused himself. Plowman is represented by Hundley in an ongoing federal civil rights case.

McGowan has asserted she is innocent. If convicted, she could face a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Ebert was asked if McGowan could expect a fair trial in Loudoun County, given the increased media coverage Weinstein’s indictment will probably bring.

“I don’t see why she wouldn’t get a fair trial,” Ebert told WTOP.

Since her last court appearance, McGowan has hired Jose Baez — the lead attorney for Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of murder in July 2011 — to act as co-counsel, with Hundley.

“Apparently, he’s had a lot of high-profile cases,” said Ebert.

Locally, Baez represented Gary Giordano, who was detained in Aruba for almost a half-year after the disappearance of Robyn Gardner of Frederick, Maryland. Giordano was never charged.

Hundley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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