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While attorney Waukeen McCoy conceded he didn’t have it in writing, he insisted Thursday that Angela Alioto owes him a quarter of her fee in the Wonder Bread race discrimination case. “Basically, our agreement was an oral agreement,” McCoy testified. “She was going to pay me 25 percent on all cases. “I trusted that she would honor the agreement and we didn’t need to put it in writing,” he added. McCoy testified in the combined trials of his breach-of-contract case against Alioto and her complaint of tortious interference against him for allegedly stealing three clients. Both suits stem from a discrimination case the two worked on together against the maker of Wonder Bread. He claims she owes him attorneys fees — possibly worth more than $1 million. She says he stole her clients, and testified last week McCoy was rewarded by her political foe Mayor Willie Brown with a seat on the city’s Ethics Commission for filing suit against her. On Thursday, McCoy testified that Alioto reneged on their deal when she offered him only 10 percent — while another lawyer who worked on the case, Paul Justi, would get 16 percent. On cross-examination, John Alioto, Angela’s brother and attorney, attacked McCoy’s legal experience, character and credibility. After establishing that McCoy had been evicted from several offices for nonpayment and also had filed for bankruptcy, Alioto questioned his legal background. He also asked whether McCoy disclosed his lack of trial experience. “Did you tell Angela Alioto that basically your practice up to 1997 was workers’ compensation cases?” Alioto asked. “She didn’t ask me about any trial experience,” McCoy replied. He said at the time he was brought into Angela Alioto’s law firm in May 1998, he had conducted no jury trials, but had tried several bench trials. He said she was interested in his legal work on domestic partner and civil rights issues. “I was a token African-American,” he said. Alioto and McCoy were co-counsel on the Wonder Bread case, in which 20 workers claimed they were discriminated against by International Brands Corp., the bakery that makes Wonder Bread and Twinkies. In August 2000, jurors awarded the plaintiffs $121 million, which a judge reduced to $27 million. Alioto later confirmed she had settled the case for her 17 clients. The amount is believed to be $20 million. Her fee agreement was not disclosed, but contingency fees usually are 33 percent, which would put her fee at more than $6 million. McCoy’s three clients, whom Alioto accused him of stealing, were part of the jury award. Lead plaintiff Theodis Carroll got $150,000, which was reduced to $102,000. Derrick Price was awarded $9.1 million, which was reduced to $1.2 million. Carroll and Price refused the reduced amounts and asked for new trials. McCoy’s third client, George Lassiter, was initially awarded $550,000, but the amount was reduced to zero. McCoy has said all three have resolved their cases, but declined to say how much, if anything, the trio got. On Thursday, McCoy testified that an attorney who had worked for Quentin Kopp, now a San Mateo County Superior Court judge, had recommended that he call Alioto about working on the Wonder Bread case. When they agreed he would rent space for $1,500 a month at her Montgomery Street law office, McCoy said that Alioto told him he would work on the Wonder Bread case and other cases as well. He said the three clients she later accused him of stealing came to him to ask questions about the case. He also learned that there was an offer of $4 million, plus “reasonable” attorneys fees, on the table from IBC to settle the case. “She never told me about it,” McCoy said of the alleged offer, and said she instead asked for $100 million from the Kansas-based company. McCoy said when he met with the three clients, Alioto burst into his office and called him “a liar … con-artist … unethical.” “It was crystal clear that she kicked me off the case,” he said, adding that “within a half-hour” the three clients asked him to represent them. He agreed.
Due to a reporting error, this story mischaracterized testimony in the litigation between Angela Alioto and Waukeen McCoy. The story incorrectly stated that Alioto’s attorney, John Alioto, established in court that McCoy had been evicted from several offices for nonpayment. In fact, Alioto only questioned McCoy about his landlord disputes, but McCoy did not concede that he had ever been evicted. We regret the error.

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