Don’t I know you?

by Rick Wetzel on September 5, 2011

The Chicago Tribune reports a mistrial was declared last week in a federal sex-trafficking case because a prosecution witness told authorities that the defense attorney was once one of her massage clients. The witness, a masseuse, told prosecutors that she believed she knew the defense attorney. As it turns out, the defense lawyer had been her client at a Chicago massage parlor in 2009. He had purchased gifts for her and corresponded with her by email.

Defense counsel insisted he had done nothing inappropriate during his massage sessions and could continue to effectively represent the owner of the massage parlor. Counsel did not recognize her name on the list of prosecution witnesses because he only knew her by her professional masseuse name. Counsel did admit he was a little too friendly with the masseuse and had neglected to tell his wife about her.

The client knows best

Prosecutors were in favor of continuing the trial with current defense counsel. They were willing to strike the previous testimony of the masseuse. The trial judge was also prepared to continue the trial and complemented counsel on his rigorous defense in the case.

The client had no interest in counsel continuing to represent him. He said he could not trust counsel due to his relationship with a government witness. The judge, probably worried about the outcome of any criminal appeals, reluctantly agreed with the client and granted a mistrial.

Smarter than you think

A Texas criminal appeals lawyer or Texas habeas corpus lawyer would tell you this is a classic conflict of interest. The lawyer had no business remaining on the case and the judge did the right thing in granting a mistrial. The relationship between counsel and the parlor owner could not be repaired.

Even the revealing masseuse knew there was something wrong with her former client representing her former boss in relation to alleged unlawful activities she engaged in at the behest of her boss. That sense of impropriety may have something to do with the fact the masseuse has a law degree from Ukraine.

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