Tom Barrack Prosecutors Cry Foul Over Him Paying Legal Fees for Aide
(Bloomberg) -- Federal prosecutors in New York say Colony Capital Inc. founder Tom Barrack, who is accused of illegal lobbying, has created a potential conflict of interest by paying for the defense lawyers hired by his former assistant, who was also charged in the case.
In a letter to U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan on Thursday, prosecutors said Barrack agreed to advance legal fees to Matthew Grimes after the two were arrested in July. Both were charged with illegally lobbying for the United Arab Emirates in an effort to influence U.S. foreign policy.
The agreement causes a possible conflict for Grimes’s attorneys, prosecutors told the judge. It could influence the advice they provide the former assistant on issues including cooperating with the government against Barrack or whether he should testify in his own defense -- which could implicate his co-defendant, the government said.
Prosecutors asked the judge to hold a hearing to determine whether there is a conflict and whether Grimes is willing to waive his right to independent counsel.
Barrack’s lawyer Daniel Petrocelli responded in a letter to the judge, saying no money has been advanced to Grimes and the government was advised of the fee arrangement so any issues could be sorted out ahead of time.
Grimes retains the right to control his defense and his lawyers will take direction from him only, Petrocelli wrote.
“The fee agreement provides for advancement up to a specified amount, which is subject to reimbursement in certain circumstances,” Petrocelli said.
He said any questions the judge had could be addressed at a Jan. 5 hearing.
One of Grimes’s lawyers, Abbe David Lowell, said in an email that “we have discussed this issue with the government and the response we file will make clear that no issue exists here and any concern raised is misplaced.”
The case is USA v Al Malik Alshahhi et al, 1:21-cr-00371, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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