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Federal prosecutors say D.C. lawyers David Schertler and Danny Onorato have a conflict of interest in representing one of two Metropolitan Police Department officers charged with witness tampering in a high-profile homicide case. The problem, prosecutors say, is that Schertler and Onorato represented both officers — Erick Brown and Milagros Morales — during the grand-jury probe into whether the pair asked witnesses to change their statements in the investigation of a 2005 murder at the District’s Club U. Shortly before the March indictment, Brown hired new lawyers, Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig of Steptoe & Johnson, while Morales stayed with Schertler and Onorato. On April 11, William Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, which is prosecuting the case, filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to consider removing Schertler or asking the two officers to waive the conflict. Though he noted that the two were “exceptional lawyers,” Gould is concerned that “any controversy about who did what in dealing with the witnesses with whom the detectives tampered would create a conflict during trial.” What’s more, he wrote, a cross-examination by Schertler or Onorato may draw upon information they learned from representing Brown, and “such questioning could easily be to Erik Brown’s detriment.” Schertler says he’s not worried. “We believe that any potential conflict that might exist is a conflict that can be waived by the clients and will be waived by the clients.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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