Lawyer of the Day

Runner-Up Lawyer of the Day: Ben Kuehne

On a normal day, being charged in a federal indictment with laundering drug money would be enough to get you named ATL’s Lawyer of the Day. But allegations of going down on 15-year-old boys are tough to top.
Nevertheless, Ben Kuehne deserves a shout-out in these pages. From the Daily Business Review:

Ben Kuehne Miami lawyer Above the Law blog.jpgHigh-profile Miami lawyer Ben Kuehne was charged in a federal indictment unsealed today with laundering drug money that went to celebrity lawyer Roy Black to defend Colombian cocaine kingpin Fabio Ochoa.

Kuehne, who represented Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election and an array of liberal causes, made his first appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Brown this morning on a charge of money laundering, which carries a maximum 20-year sentence. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke.

“I am completely innocent of these allegations,” Kuehne told Brown.

Normally one might say, “If you say so.” But Kuehne is an exceedingly well-regarded lawyer in Miami, with many defenders. The government case is being greeted with skepticism in some quarters (another reason Kuehne won’t be our Lawyer of the Day).
Read more, after the jump.

Writes lawyer/blogger David Markus:

Ben Kuehne, one of the pillars of this community, was indicted on money laundering charges. The government’s theory of prosecution is outrageous. According to Jay Weaver’s article:

“Justice Department officials allege that Kuehne broke the law in 2002-03 when he vouched for millions paid by one-time Medellín drug lord Fabio Ochoa Vasquez to his high-profile trial attorney, Roy Black.”

“Kuehne’s research gave Black the confidence — in the form of legal opinion letters — to accept payments totaling $3.7 million in fees and $1.3 million in expenses from Ochoa, according to several sources. Kuehne earned a portion of the expense payments — $220,000 to $260,000 — from Black for vetting Ochoa’s payments….”

This means that Ben had to have knowingly and willfully lied to Roy when telling him that the fee was okay. But what motive would Ben have for doing this? The money certainly wasn’t enough to risk all of this. And Ben Kuehne of all people wouldn’t have done these things for a million dollars. He’s as ethical a person and lawyer as I know.

So what’s up with this indictment? Here’s Markus’s theory:

We all know the real reason for this prosecution — to discourage lawyers from taking these kinds of cases.

I went to court to support Ben. Half of the legal community was there to show their support. (He was released on a $250,000 personal surety bond.)

Watching this unfold really stuck in my gut. I am still in disbelief. I actually had a case in the past with the lead prosecutor from DOJ. I went up to him to say hello and he exclaimed without prompting: “This is a wonderful day for the government.” The comment was unnecessary and it sickened me.

That does seem a trifle d-baggish gratuitous. It would probably be more prudent to wait for a conviction before crowing like that — especially to a blogger.
Federal Court: Miami lawyer charged in unsealed indictment [Daily Business Review]
Sad day [Southern District of Florida Blog]
Top lawyer faces money-laundering charges [Miami Herald via WSJ Law Blog]

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