Crime

Hippocrate “Cheecho” Mertsaris: Does he have a weakness for judicial buttocks?

In a few weeks, an interesting trial will be getting underway in Queens Criminal Court here in New York. The underlying incident should provide fodder for either a Lawyer of the Day or a Judge of the Day — but it’s not clear which.

The episode giving rise to the criminal charges was reported back in May by the New York Daily News:

A disabled lawyer accused of touching the rear end of a Taxi and Limousine Commission judge is blaming it on his cerebral palsy. Queens prosecutors have charged Hippocrate Mertsaris, 35, with sexual abuse and sexual harassment for allegedly grabbing the woman’s inner thigh and buttocks during a meeting in her Kew Gardens offices.

Mertsaris’ lawyer, Wyatt Gibbons, admits his client touched the woman but denies it was sexual. “He whacked her in the butt but it wasn’t sexual abuse,” Gibbons said. “He has spastic movements.”

Let’s dig a little deeper….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day, or Judge of the Day? We Report, You Decide.”

Mel Gibson. (In background is his career going up in flames.)

Sorry, Braveheart fans. You can no longer name this movie as your favorite of all time without making women around you shudder in disgust — thanks to the off-screen actions of the film’s barbaric leading man.

Mel Gibson used to be a perfect man crush: squeaky clean Hollywood blockbusting-star, with a big family and serious passion. But now his major hits tend to be for gossip websites reporting on his misdeeds, first with his anti-Semitic rant while being arrested for drunken driving in 2006 (later expunged from his record), then with the end of his 28-year marriage amid accusations of adultery, and now with the alleged battery of and abusive phone calls to his current Russian-musician girlfriend/baby mama.

Gibson usually plays an affable and inspiring good guy in films. But in real-life phone calls to his girlfriend — check out recordings #1 and #2 (with added death threats and heavy panting!) — it sounds like he’s auditioning for a horror movie, using his mouth as a lethal weapon. Here’s a censored version of one of the calls (so you can listen with your kids), from the AP:

Gibson’s girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, taped the calls after Gibson allegedly punched her in the face and broke a few teeth — all while she was holding their love child. California is a two-party consent state when it comes to taping conversations, with $2,500 fines and jail time for those that break the wiretapping law.

Could Grigorieva get in trouble for recording Mad Mel?

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The 76-year-old iconic director, Roman Polanski, is free to drug and sex 13-year-old girls across the European continent. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the Swiss government rejected a U.S. extradition request. The Associated Press reports:

The Swiss mostly blamed U.S. authorities for failing to provide confidential testimony about Polanski’s sentencing procedure in 1977-1978.

The Justice Ministry also said that national interests were taken into consideration in the decision.

Funny, I didn’t know the Swiss had a national interest in protecting convicted rapists…

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That was fast. The criminal case against 10 Russian spies, which has captured the national imagination since their arrests on June 27, has been resolved. The New York Times reports:

In a seeming flashback to the cold war, Russian and American officials traded prisoners in the bright sunlight on the tarmac of Vienna’s international airport on Friday, bringing to a quick end an episode that had threatened to disrupt relations between the countries.

Planes carrying 10 convicted Russian sleeper agents and 4 men accused by Moscow of spying for the West swooped into the Austrian capital, once a hub of clandestine East-West maneuvering, and the men and women were transferred, the Justice Department said. The planes soon took off again in a coda fitting of an espionage novel.

It was a very dramatic scene. For more details on the spy exchange, see the Times and also the Washington Post (which reported that the idea of a spy swap was first developed weeks ago by the Obama administration).

Let’s take a look at some of the legal angles to this story….

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There are a lot of angry job hunters in the legal marketplace right now, thanks to lots of debt and little in the way of prospects. They’re desperate, frustrated, and may be dangerous. The Great Recession has turned some of these poor legal puppies into Cujos.

In May, we wrote about a heated exchange between a Massachusetts law student and a potential lawyerly employer. The lawyer, Rose Clayton, had hesitations about hiring the law student as a paralegal and offered to hire him on a trial basis. When he objected, demanding a full-time offer instead, she laid out exactly what he had done wrong. That set him off and the conversation deteriorated into an exchange of unconstructive criticism. The law student, Jesse Clark, ended with this:

It’s amazing that the Ma Bar lets women practice law. Shouldn’t you be home cleaning and raising children? As for your practice, its just Bankruptcy. It’s not difficult, and many Petitioners file pro bono and get discharges.

Clayton posted the exchange online, redacting the student’s name, and Massachusetts Law Weekly picked up on it. And then we picked up on it. Jesse Clark responded on his blog and thus shed the cloak of anonymity.

Noah Schaffer at the Massachusetts Law Weekly’s Docket identified Clark in a second story, which led Clark to create a nude modeling profile for Schaffer.

After corresponding with Clark, my photo and phone number found their way into a Craigslist casual encounters ad. I deflated quite a few, um, hearts when I let the many callers know that it was a prank.

Then all was quiet on the digital terrorism front for over a month. Until this week. Rose Clayton became the victim of a nasty new prank…

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It has been a while since we last wrote about Gerald Ung, the Temple Law student who was arrested in January for shooting Edward “Eddie” DiDonato Jr. (a former college lacrosse star who also has a legal connection — his father is a partner at Fox Rothschild, the prominent Philadelphia firm). Today we have two updates.

First, a reader alerted us to some updates in the criminal case against Ung, who faces five charges, including attempted murder. According to the docket, it appears that a scheduling took place last week, on June 24, and a trial date was set.

The trial date: February 7, 2011. Wondered our reader: “Huh? Do they usually wait that long for an attempted murder trial?”

We have some thoughts on this, plus an update on Eddie DiDonato….

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And the victim, Eddie DiDonato, continues to recover.

In August 2006, Robert Wone, a promising young Asian-American attorney, was murdered while staying at a friend’s house in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Wone, then general counsel for Radio Free Asia and a former Covington & Burling associate, was stabbed to death. The housemates claimed that Wone had been attacked by an intruder, but the crime scene seemed to suggest that was not the case.

The unsolved murder inspired the birth of the site WhoMurderedRobertWone, which has tracked the progress of the investigation in excruciating detail. Prosecutors charged the three housemates, including former Arent Fox partner Joseph Price, with conspiracy, obstruction, and tampering, but not for his murder.

The verdict in the four-and-a-half week trial came today.

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CHECK YOU EMPLOYEE BACKGROUND. That appears to be the lesson learned by the New York office of litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel.

A source at QE recently sent us an email with this dramatic subject heading: “A rapist among us.. Quinn Emanuel.” Here’s the allegation:

[Earlier this month] our Records Manager, [name redacted - hereinafter "Got-a-Record Manager"], was fired. He’s been employed at Quinn for over 2 years. Termination Reason: He was a convicted rapist. He’s been convicted since 1987. He was charged with sodomy and first degree rape. I shudder to think that we had a rapist among us and the firm who claims to do background check on employees did not even catch this. An employee did a simple Google search on him and came up with it…. How did the firm miss this?

The tipster provided links to Got-a-Record Manager’s (1) LinkedIn profile, showing his employment at Quinn Emanuel as a “Records Manager,” and (2) a sex offender profile on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website, containing Got-a-Record Manager’s name and photo. If you enter Got-a-Record Manager’s (uncommon) name into Google, the first result in his sex offender registration and the third result is his LinkedIn profile.

How did this come up? According to our source, “People just like to Google others for fun, and this time someone got a surprise.” Indeed.

Was Got-a-Record’s criminal record “a surprise” to the powers-that-be at QE? We reached out to the firm for comment….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Did Quinn Emanuel Hire, Then Fire, a Convicted Sex Offender?”

Not that we’re in the business of giving free legal advice, but there are a few things every lawyer should know. Lawyers should know how to handle a traffic stop, for instance. They should know how to handle cops who shout slurs at you from across the street. And of course, lawyers should never snitch.

Some of these lessons come as a shock to laypeople, and even some lawyers who didn’t pay enough attention during Criminal Procedure. But high on the list of things that trained attorneys should never do is submit to a breathalyzer test. You don’t need to be a DUI defense attorney to know that you don’t blow.

The unwritten rule isn’t there to protect drunk drivers (okay, it kind of is there to protect drunks who operate high-speed killing machines); it’s also there to protect innocent people who don’t want to get caught up in the criminal justice system.

An article in today’s Washington Post underscores the point: the breathalyzer simply cannot be trusted, and juries can’t be trusted to know that…

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Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Left to right: John Michael Farren, Scott Rothstein, Michael Margulies.


For some reason, today brings lots of news about lawyers and the criminal justice system. And we’re not talking about lawyers representing clients, but lawyers who are the clients: John Michael Farren, the former White House lawyer accused of attempting to murder his wife; Scott Rothstein, the Florida attorney who ran a massive Ponzi scheme; and Michael Margulies, the former Lindquist & Vennum partner who misappropriated millions in client money. We’ve decided to hit this rogues’ gallery in a single, omnibus post.

Let’s start with John Michael Farren, the former Bush Administration lawyer and Xerox general counsel charged with attempted murder and first-degree strangulation of his wife, Skadden counsel Mary Margaret Fadden. As reported by the ABA Journal, John Farren has posted $750,000 bail and been released to the “Institute of Living” — which sounds like a fancy spa where you eat seaweed and do yoga, but is actually a mental hospital in Hartford.

The news coverage also reveals that the wealthy couple’s divorce has been finalized. How were their millions distributed?

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