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A prominent D.C. real estate developer facing conspiracy, bribery, and fraud charges has assembled a team of elite — and expensive — defense lawyers to represent him. Douglas Jemal, 62, founder of Douglas Development Corp., pleaded not guilty last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Jemal’s son Norman, 36, and Blake Esherick, 42, a company executive, also pleaded not guilty. The defendants were flanked by a crew of high-profile defense attorneys, including Reid Weingarten and Michele Roberts, whose respective firms, Steptoe & Johnson and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, are two of the highest grossing in the city. Other lawyers on the case are Erik Kitchen and Brian Heberlig, also of Steptoe; Stanley Brand of Brand & Frulla; and Carol Elder Bruce and Paul Kemp, partners with Venable. On the other side of the courtroom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Dubester is handling the prosecution solo. The trial is set for September 2006 before Judge Ricardo Urbina. The eight-count indictment, issued Sept. 27, alleges the defendants doled out bribes to Michael Lorusso, a former deputy director of the D.C. Office of Property Management. In exchange for the bribe, Lorusso admits he arranged for the D.C. government to lease Douglas Development properties at inflated prices. Lorusso pleaded guilty last year to bribery and conspiracy charges and agreed to cooperate with investigators.
Sarah Kelley can be contacted at [email protected].

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