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When Sutherland Asbill & Brennan lured white-collar defense attorney William “Billy” Martin away from Blank Rome earlier this year, its new partner was inevitably expected to bring in a big-name client. But the firm probably didn’t envision the first high-profile case would involve dog fighting. Yelp. Enter dog breeding enthusiast and suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who last week hired Martin to represent him after being charged with operating an illegal interstate dogfighting ring. Martin is probably best known for representing the parents of Chandra Levy, a Washington intern who was murdered in 2001, and Monica Lewinsky’s mother, Marcia Lewis. He is also defending actor Wesley Snipes, who was indicted last year for tax fraud. Observers say Martin’s going to need all of his considerable legal prowess to help Vick. “The federal government gets convictions about 90 percent of the time on cases like this,” says William Frick, a partner at Winsboro, S.C.’s Koon & Cook, who in 2004 successfully prosecuted interstate dogfighter David Ray Tant. “The nail in the coffin is cases like this are witnesses. They’ve already mentioned three or four.” Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is keeping the Vick case in the family: he picked Covington & Burling’s Eric Holder to oversee the NFL’s review of the charges against Vick. Holder is a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and Covington serves as the league’s outside counsel. Paul Tagliabue, the NFL’s longtime commissioner who retired last year, is a former Covington partner.
Nathan Carlile can be contacted at [email protected].

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