Monday, November 30, 2009

How Famous People Handle Problems, Like Car Accidents

When an athlete is arrested in my town I am always asked by some panting person -"So, you representing so and so?" I always say, "no," and "don't want it."

There is a notion that representing a celebrity will make the criminal defense lawyer, well, famous. That can be true. It can be exciting, and it can put a relatively unknown criminal defense lawyer on the map, but for the most part it's just a pain in the ass.

First, unless you know the athlete/celebrity, you're not getting a call from the suspect. You're getting a call from the agent. The agent has three goals - to convince you that the celebrity is doing you a favor by contacting you, to negotiate a low fee based on the favor they are doing you, and to tell you that you have to work with the civil lawyers and 4 other idiots who know nothing about criminal law.

Trust me, I know.

Then there's the other issue - the PR side of the case. The "I don't want anyone to know I've hired or spoken with a criminal defense lawyer."

Now let's get to Tiger.

The three scheduled and cancelled interviews tell me one thing - there were too many lawyers and handlers around.

This is all just a guess, but here's what I think happened:

Someone told Tiger he should talk to a criminal defense lawyer. He scoffed. "I didn't commit a crime, I had a car accident."

Because the agent and civil lawyer(s) didn't want to piss off Tiger, they called 5 different criminal defense lawyers and asked them to keep this on the QT. A couple criminal lawyers were not told who the client was, as if they didn't know. "I got a guy who hit a tree and the cops want to talk to him....." None of these lawyers were paid, and none had face to face meetings with Tiger or even spoke to him. No criminal lawyer was going to THAT house.

Tiger wanted to talk.

Then he didn't.

Then he did.

Finally, someone, probably 2 of the civil lawyers, a young associate who "discovered" the law surrounding Florida's accident report privilege, the agent, and the PR firm, convinced Tiger not to talk through their conflicting advice.

Had Tiger spoken with a criminal lawyer of any caliber, the conversation would have gone like this:

"Mr. Woods, don't say a word."

UPDATE: While writing this, I learned criminal lawyer Mark Nejame was hired. Don't know at what point, but after he was hired, the interview with the police was cancelled.

A statement would have been prepared that "on the advice of counsel" there would be no statement, and something about the recovery and that this is a private matter and Tiger will pay any restitution if ordered to be paid by him for the damage to the tree and fire hydrant. and that would have been it.

Instead, it was more important to keep the criminal lawyer at a distance.

I may be wrong about all of this, but I doubt it.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

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