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Greedy or Unsophisticated? Opposing Arguments Paint Differing Portraits of Fen-Phen LawyersThree lawyers accused of defrauding their clients in a $200 million diet drug settlement were greedy, a prosecutor charged Monday during closing arguments of a high-profile trial. But a defense attorney described the three men as personal injury lawyers who may not have been able to grasp the complexities of the class action settlement. "I don't think they've figured out how to read that settlement agreement yet," Jim Shuffett said. "It's too complicated."
2008-06-24 12:00:00 AM
Three lawyers accused of defrauding their clients in a $200 million diet drug settlement were greedy, a prosecutor charged Monday during closing arguments of the high-profile trial. But a defense attorney said the attorneys did not commit any crime.
U.S. Attorney Laura Voorhees told jurors in Covington, Ky., on Monday morning that the three lawyers were motivated by greed. She said the lawyers should have been paid $60 million to settle a lawsuit over the diet drug fen-phen, but walked away with $127 million.
"But $60 million wasn't enough. Think of it, ladies and gentlemen, the audacity of these attorneys," Voorhees said.
Attorneys Shirley Cunningham Jr., William Gallion and Melbourne Mills Jr. are being tried on charges of wire fraud conspiracy. If convicted, they could receive up to 20 years in prison.
Defense attorneys told jurors Monday afternoon that their clients did not commit any crimes.
Jim Shuffett, who represents Mills, said his client was "a severe alcoholic" and that made him unable to think rationally.
"If these other two gentlemen had been intending to steal $65 million, they would have not have included a bad alcoholic," Shuffett said. "That's insane."
Shuffett described Gallion, Cunningham and Mills as personal injury lawyers who may not have been able to grasp the complexities of the class action settlement.
"I don't think they've figured out how to read that settlement agreement yet," Shuffett said. "It's too complicated."
Stephen Dobson, who represents Cunningham, sought to minimize his client's role in the settlement and anything that may have gone wrong.
"Mr. Cunningham gave no instructions, no directions," Dobson said.
Dobson said Cunningham lacked criminal intent, a key ingredient in proving fraud charges.
O. Hale Almand, who represents Gallion, said his client documented every step to ensure the settlement was handled properly.
Almand also attacked one of the witnesses, Stanley Chesley.
The three defendants hired Chesley, a class action specialist from Cincinnati, to reach a settlement with American Home Products, the maker of the diet drug.
Chesley, who received immunity from prosecution, testified earlier at trial that he did nothing wrong. He also had said he had found the handling of parts of the settlement unusual.
Jurors are expected to return Tuesday morning to receive final instructions and begin deliberations in the six-week-long trial.
The case has been closely followed in Kentucky and the horse racing industry because Gallion and Cunningham are part-owners of 2007's Horse of the Year, Curlin.
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