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San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Brendon Wen died suddenly Sunday at the age of 35, apparently of heart failure. A celebration of his life will be held this weekend. Wen, a former college swimmer who rededicated himself to the sport about five years ago, died shortly after winning the 200-yard butterfly at the Pacific Masters Short Course Championship meet in Pleasanton. “He had been training for eight months for this event, and died shortly after clocking the best times of his career as a master swimmer,” said his wife, Sheila O’Gara. “This was the center of his universe.” Wen, who’d begun swimming at age 9, played water polo and competed on the swim team at UC-Davis. After graduating from the American University Washington College of Law in 1996, he worked at the San Francisco public defender’s office, where he met O’Gara, another deputy public defender. He spent about two years as an associate at the firm then known as Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May before embarking on a solo criminal defense practice around 2001. He tried more than 40 jury cases. “He missed the rough-and-tumble of criminal cases,” said criminal defense solo Kenneth Quigley, who practiced out of the same San Francisco building. The two often tried cases together. In 2003, they won a murder acquittal for a client accused of throwing a man from the deck of a party boat into the San Francisco Bay, and got a hung jury for a police officer accused of on-duty sexual assault. “Like me, he’s a lone wolf,” he said, “but we’re very compatible wolves.” “I fight my cases really tough and people don’t like it,” Quigley said. Wen was a vigorous advocate, but more low-key. “He’d make his points more calmly.” Since he resumed swimming, Wen has risen at 4:30 a.m. six days a week to train before work, said O’Gara, now of counsel at McKenna Long & Aldridge. “He’d go into his office, change his clothes, and then he’d be in court for his 8:30 appearances.” “He was extremely competitive,” said Assistant DA Paul Cummins, who, like Wen, swam during and after college. “He was genuine, you could take him at his word.” In addition to his wife of nearly seven years, Wen is survived by his parents, Victoria and David, and two brothers, Patrick and Michael. His and O’Gara’s four Blue Point Siamese cats, Mizzy, Fiona, Nora and Liam, were also very important to him, his wife added. Memorial donations may be sent to the Clarke Memorial Swim Center, care of Kerry O’Brien, 1750 Heather Dr., Walnut Creek, 94598. A celebration of his life will be held at the swim center at 8:45 a.m. Saturday. “He would have wanted it at 4:30,” O’Gara said, “but we decided that would be too early.”

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