Elite law firms and the Mafia would appear to be worlds apart. Biglaw firms represent all sorts of unsavory characters, but these clients tend to steal using computers rather than cudgels. When you wear white shoes, you don’t want to get them splattered with blood.
But there are commonalities. Both Biglaw and Big Crime are large and lucrative enterprises. They’re intensely hierarchical and often ruthless.
There are cultural similarities as well. As noted in these pages by lawyer turned therapist Will Meyerhofer, “Some big law firms are like the mob. They do ugly things, but prefer to avoid ‘ugliness.’” Instead, there’s a lot of indirection and passive-aggressiveness.
So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that a leading defense lawyer to Mob figures has joined “the family” — the Biglaw family, that is….
After first claiming that he was originally offering “Late Show” host David Letterman a screenplay for $2 million, Robert “Joe” Halderman, an ex-producer for “48 Hours Mystery” on CBS, pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempted grand larceny in the second degree.
“I apologize to Mr. Letterman, his family, to Stephanie Birkitt, her family, and certainly to my friend and family. I will not be doing interviews. Thank you for your patience,” Halderman said after entering the plea.
As you may recall, Stephanie Birkitt (pictured) was the Cardozo Law grad who became romanticallyentangled with both Letterman and Halderman.
So, what kind of sentence did Halderman get?
On the media website Mediaite, we are erroneously listed as having an affiliation with the Late Show with David Letterman. We wish! If that were the case, then maybe we’d have inside dirt on one of the juiciest media scandals to come along in a while.
And it’s a media scandal with a legal angle — several, in fact. Last Friday, we named the woman at the eye of the storm, Stephanie Birkitt, our Lawyer of the Day. Birkitt — the former Letterman paramour whose ex-boyfriend, Robert “Joe” Halderman, stands accused of trying to extort David Letterman — is a lawyer. The blonde hottie is a graduate of Cardozo Law School, and she passed the bar exam twice — in New York and Connecticut. Very impressive, Ms. Birkitt!
Alas, Stephanie Birkitt may be a two-timer in more than one sense of the word. We previously stated, relying on other sources, that Birkitt’s sexual relationship with her former boss ended in 2003. Now we’re hearing otherwise, from the New York Post:
Pretty former “Late Show” staffer Stephanie Birkitt revealed in her diary that she continued having sex with boss David Letterman even after moving in with her CBS-producer boyfriend, who later allegedly tried to extort him over the affair, sources told The Post yesterday.
Letterman and Birkitt enjoyed romantic hikes last fall at his sprawling ranch in eastern Montana — where he was married in March — while her boyfriend, “48 Hours Mystery” producer Robert “Joe” Halderman, stayed home in Connecticut, the sources said.
At the time, Birkitt, 34, insisted to Halderman that she and the 62-year-old Letterman had just “a platonic relationship,” a source said.
“I’m his best friend,” Birkitt told the worried 51-year-old Halderman, the source said.
A friend with benefits? Like free law school tuition? Speaking of which, according to our reader poll, almost two-thirds of ATL readers would sleep with David Letterman in exchange for free law school tuition. UPDATE: According to Maureen Dowd (gavel bang: commenter), Letterman’s company loaned Birkitt the money for law school, which she paid back. If true, this is disappointing. What’s the point of sleeping with the boss if you can’t get paid for it?
More law-related Letterman links, after the jump.
The Village Voice had a great piece last week on the developing trial of Robert Simels, a New York attorney who has attracted a fair amount of fame from defending alleged mobsters and other assorted “kingpins.”
Legendary local attorney Robert Simels is only being punished for representing some of New York’s most unredeemable gangsters, say some in local legal circles. Kind of a what-goes-around-comes-around situation.
Simels not only lawyered for mafia turncoat Henry Hill (on whose life GoodFellas was based), but also some of the biggest Latino and black drug kingpins of the ’80s and ’90s. And now, Simels himself is in deep trouble. He’s been indicted for allegedly tampering with witnesses in a case revolving around a comparatively little-known Guyanese drug gangster, Shaheed “Roger” Khan.
There is talk that Simels has been hauled into court as a punishment for his unsavory client list. Coincidentally enough, his trial is taking place before U.S. District Judge John Gleeson — a former prosecutor who went after John Gotti.
So it should come as no surprise that Simels has turned to another legendary defender of clients with supposed mafia ties, Gerald Shargel:
Simels has hired Gerald Shargel, one of Gotti’s main lawyers and a guy who is, in fact, one of the most prominent mob lawyers in the city.
But did you know that Shargel also doubles as a professor at Brooklyn Law School?
Details after the jump.
Marc Dreier, the jailed New York law firm founder, must remain in prison while he fights charges that he swindled hedge funds, a federal judge ruled after a prosecutor accused the lawyer of stealing $380 million.
“The evidence does appear to show an enormous risk of flight,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Eaton said at a bail hearing today in Manhattan federal court for Dreier, namesake of the New York law firm Dreier LLP.
Dreier, 58, was arrested on Dec. 7 on U.S. charges that he persuaded two unidentified hedge funds to give him more than $100 million by claiming, falsely, that he was selling at a discount notes issued by New York developer Sheldon Solow. He was arrested after returning to New York from Toronto, where he had been briefly jailed for impersonating a lawyer at the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.
* Our Law School Dean hotties contest is now underway. Vote on the women here, the men here, and the alternate male candidates here.
* Do you know anyone who is currently clerking for Justice Alito? If so, we’d like to hear from you.
* If you’re in law for the money, we recommend Korean transactional practice, at a big firm. You’ll probably make more than you would as a solo practioner or small firm lawyer.
* If money is your top priority, then don’t bother with the law; go work for Goldman Sachs . Partners there take home an average of $7 million a year. And still find time to beat up on small businessmen.
* ATL readers: Not as rich as Goldman Sachs partners. But pretty damn smart.
* Creative ways to get yourself criminally charged: (1) walk around your office buck naked; or (2) walk out of a restaurant without paying (after concluding that your seafood pasta dish was short on the seafood).
* But protesting while topless, that’s okay.
* Lori Alvino and Matthew McGill: We are not worthy. The happy couple tied the knot earlier this month. Their wedding guests included two sitting Supreme Court justices, the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit, and two SCOTUS short-listers. (Yes, we’ve categorized this under Nauseating Things.)
* Some dispatches from the New Yorker Festival: Justice Breyer, with Jeffrey Toobin; legendary criminal defense lawyer Gerald Shargel, along with other experts on the Mafia; and some guy named Jon Stewart.
* There’s a new kid on the ATL block: Meet Stella Q. Welcome, Stella!
We attended several other New Yorker Festival events in addition to Justice Breyer’s talk with Jeffrey Toobin (which we discussed here and here). One of these was a fascinating panel about representations of the Mafia in popular culture, entitled TV, Movies, and the Mob.
The panel, moderated by Jeffrey Goldberg, was star-studded. It included the magnificent Lorraine Bracco, aka Dr. Jennifer Melfi of “The Sopranos”; Paul Haggis, who won the best screenplay Oscar for “Crash” (and is working on a new TV series about the criminal underworld); Harold Ramis, director and co-writer of “Analyze This” and “Analyze That”; and Frank Vincent, who plays Phil Leotardo on “The Sopranos.”
But the panelist of the greatest interest to us was a lawyer: Gerald Shargel, one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the country. Shargel has represented numerous high-profile defendants, including the Mafia boss John Gotti and various members of the Gambino family. As Goldberg drily described Shargel during the introductions: “He’s the sort of lawyer you got to when you have BIG problems. Not just regular-size problems….”
A more detailed discussion of the panel, after the jump.
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