Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"No Comment"

The other day, I have this client who pleads guilty to 1 count of malicious destruction of property above $500 (which can carry a max 3 years and a fine with restitution). The remaining 13 counts are nolle prossed. This client is a young guy barely legal and him and some friends went around shooting cars, businesses, and house windows with a slingshot. They did a far about of property damage totaling nearly $20,000.

So it's the normal courtroom dance: state says the deal and my client's pleading guilty, I say "Blonde Law on behalf of Client. That's correct your honor," read statement of charges, "No additions or corrections", and then in this case we had agreed to defer sentencing and get a presentence investigation done (the compiling of background information about my client that comes with a recommended sentence).

I tell my client to wait for his paperwork and then meet me in the hallway. So I go stand in the hallway. Some guy makes small talk with me (which isn't that odd since many people chat with me around the courthouse). Then this other guy comes over to me:

Guy: "so that guy plead guilty to 1 count of malicious destruction of property and the rest was nolle prossed."

Me: "yup"

Guy: "so he got 3 years"

Me: "no he didn't get Sentenced today, they ordered a PSI"

Guy: writes this down on a crumpled piece of paper

Me: "who are you?"

Guy: "oh i'm Jack Ass from the Harold"

Me: (internally- WTF!! He's not the guy who usually covers court, that guy wears his Harold badge around his neck, this guy looks like a client-with broken shoes and nothing to denote he's with any sort of paper) "what? You know I'm not allowed to speak to the newspaper, it's office policy. Are you going to be quoting me?"

Jack Ass: "not directly quoting you but just saying you said this."

Me: "No. I didn't know I was talking to a reporter, so that was off the record. You can write I said no comment. But you can't quote me. You can ask the state's atty to tell you that or you can write you heard it in court but not that I said it. You can write I represent Client."

Jack Ass: "what's your name?"

Me: (this guys clearly a money reporter as I said it in court) "Blonde Law"

Jack Ass: writes Blond Law

Me: "It's Blonde with an "e"" (ok not really but he did omit a letter from my 1st name)

Jack Ass: " thanks. can I speak to your client."

Me: "No. I'll be telling him not to talk to you."

I couldn't believe how squirrelly that guy was! In the future, I'll be asking everyone before I talk to them who they are.

Luckily though, I don't believe the case made it into the paper b/c there were other bigger news stories that day. So it all worked out but I guess I just need to be on my toes at all times.


At 5:17 PM, Blogger Moi said...


Just stumbled on your blog. Intersting post, and interesting issue. Some reporters can be really slimy.

I'm assuming you're a PD. I guess all offices have this policy--mine did. And, I learned never to trust reporters-- the hard way.

One time when I was a new PD, I agreed, when approached while I was at lunch, to speak to a reporter who was doing an article on professional dress. I figured it was not law-related and totally harmless.

Lo and behold, the guy quotes me out of context(but correctly--I probably should have just kept my mouth shut)as saying "I dress nicley and carry a leather brief case when I meet with clients so that they'll respect me more. Mnay have told me that they thought I was a "real" lawyer."

Needless to say, the higher ups were NOT happy!

At 8:36 PM, Blogger ACS said...

Yeah, reporters screw stuff all the time. I know a reporter who screwed me on a quote and I was a reporter at the time! What's up with the professional courtesy? Oh well, the media has its way, it can be used to your advantage, but you need to always be on your toes. Now I'll have to take a lesson from ou and look out more in the future. But your PD boss is lame if they get angry when you simply tell a reporter exactly what happened in court (i.e. the truth) and they quote you without permission (well, as long as you have your client's permission, which you should get before talking about his/her case with anybody but fellow attorneys/other employees of your office).


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