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LOS ANGELES — Lawyers for one of the defendants in the criminal case against Milberg, Weiss & Bershad are seeking to nullify the statements of one of their own witnesses after he testified earlier this month that their client, Seymour Lazar, was incompetent to stand trial. In 2005, federal prosecutors indicted Lazar on charges that he took $2.4 million kickbacks in 70 lawsuits in which he served as a paid plaintiff for Milberg Weiss. One year later, prosecutors indicted the firm and two of its lawyers as part of the same criminal probe, alleging that together they made $216 million in attorney fees by paying $11.3 million in secret and illegal kickbacks. Since last fall, Lazar’s lawyers have sought to dismiss the charges against their client on grounds that prosecutors unreasonably delayed his trial. In arguing for dismissal, Lazar’s lawyers have discussed his myriad health problems, including heart disease and cancer, that, among other things, have contributed to his inability to stay awake, concentrate and remember details. At a May 14 hearing on the motion to dismiss, Dr. William Jones, a clinical psychologist and one of Lazar’s doctors, testified unexpectedly during cross-examination that his patient was incompetent to stand trial. In response, U.S. District Judge John Walker ordered both sides to show cause why Lazar should not be given a mental competency examination. Thomas Bienert, a partner at San Clemente, Calif.-based Bienert & Miller, and lead lawyer for Lazar, did not return calls. But in papers filed on May 21, Lazar’s lawyers said a mental competency exam was “unnecessary because there is not reasonable cause to believe that Seymour Lazar is incompetent to stand trial.” They noted that Jones has since filed papers stating he “testified in error.” In response, prosecutors have said that Lazar should undergo a mental competency exam to prevent potential claims in the future that his due process rights were violated, according to a brief filed on May 25. Prosecutors noted that the “defendant has squarely placed at issue his mental ability to withstand and participate in a criminal trial and, through his own expert witness, has raised the specter of mental competency.” Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, did not return calls.

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