Monday, January 04, 2010

New Decade: New "Attorney As Government Informant" Story

“Posing as a criminal attorney to get a defendant to talk ‘freely' of his criminal past screams of entrapment and will turn the U.S. justice system on its ear if this is allowed to happen.”

That's not the statement of a criminal defense lawyer, prosecutor, or judge. It's the statement of defendant Shannon Williams.

According to Omaha World-Herald reporter Todd Cooper, that's exactly what happened.

More than 30 times this year, investigators say, Shannon Williams orchestrated a multimillion-dollar marijuana ring from inside the Douglas County Jail.

In one-on-one sessions with a jail visitor, Williams would use the visitor's cell phone to call associates and instruct them on how to divvy up the gobs of marijuana and money his operation was taking in.

He would confide in the visitor about his past exploits, claiming he had earned $15 million to $20 million while operating the marijuana ring in Omaha. He would ask the visitor to launder the money he was making. And he would use the visitor's cell phone to try to arrange hits: one to beat up his longtime defense attorney and another to “put a few into the back” of an Omaha man who had been messing with Williams' girlfriend.

All the while, the visitor would take it in, nodding and promising to follow Williams' orders.

The informant, the one that went to the jail to arrange the 30 drug deals, is a lawyer.

Fellow Omaha attorney D.C. “Woody” Bradford, in his 42nd year of practicing law says he's “shocked that an attorney was willing to do it.”

Not surprisingly the defendant was a bit taken aback: “An FBI (informant) posing as my attorney!!!” Williams wrote. “I still can't believe it!”

The article has the full story.

Here's the bombshell:

Williams said he had retained Haddock for several matters, including a lawsuit Williams filed to try to expose disparities in crack cocaine sentencings.

Stuck, the agent, disputed that. (Read: important defense evidence, dispute.)

Williams, who was acquitted in the 1993 murder of an Omaha man, said Haddock's “betrayal” has left him unsure whom to trust. At last week's hearing, Williams could be overheard asking if his new attorney “was an undercover agent, too.”

So begins the decade, so comes another snitching lawyer in the criminal justice system. Sadly, the government will fight like hell to prosecute this case, and even more scary, a judge may allow it. (I expect some to say there is nothing "legally" wrong with this tactic.) I don't think it will become commonplace, unless the Bar morally collapses, but it will happen again (It's happened before). All the government needs is one case to say it's ok.

That a lawyer, a former lawyer of a client, would agree to this, is the most pathetic thing I've ever seen. Period. I hope this lawyer is out of business, and disbarred.

Colleagues, prepare for this:

"Hi, I'm your lawyer."

"Prove 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

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