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Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., victorious attorney in the O.J. Simpson murder case and master interrogator, found himself on the other side of the fence Friday: on the witness stand being cross-examined. Cochran, pressing his firm’s claim that Abner Louima’s original team of lawyers should be precluded from sharing in a $3 million fee from a police brutality suit, got off to a hesitant start but quickly gained his footing, confidently rolling through some tough cross-examination. Cochran also offered a glimpse into the tensions that quickly emerged between his team, which includes Cardozo Law School Professor Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld, and three lawyers originally hired by Louima: Brian Figeroux, Carl W. Thomas, who died recently, and Casilda Roper-Simpson. The two teams of lawyers are vying for attorney’s fees arising from the $8.8 million settlement of Louima’s damage claims from a brutal 1997 attack in a Brooklyn precinct house. Tensions were evident Friday, when a lawyer from each team rose out of turn to angrily protest statements made during the questioning of Cochran. The Cochran group, which has now formed a civil rights firm, is pressing the special proceeding before Eastern District Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak, claiming that the first set of lawyers hired by Louima is not entitled to any fees because they quit the case and committed ethical violations by disclosing confidential information. The original group counters that they were elbowed out of the case by the Cochran group and are entitled to their one-third share of the fees under the retainer agreement Louima signed when he brought Cochran’s team into the case in August 1997. The two groups of attorneys are fighting over the original lawyers’ claim to $1 million in fees from the settlement paid to Louima by the city and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. A third lawyer, Sanford A. Rubenstein, a well-known plaintiffs’ lawyer who worked on the case, will receive $1 million without objection from either side. Cochran, who was on the stand for well over three hours Friday after testifying on direct Nov. 7, got off to a slightly shaky start, asking for several questions to be repeated to him and occasionally sipping water. But by the time the second of three lawyers started his cross-examination — Bradley D. Simon, who represents Thomas’ estate — Cochran was visibly more relaxed and his voice had regained its “I am in command” timbre. The change was evident in Cohran’s self-confident answers to some pointed questions seeking to undermine his testimony through statements from his recently released book, “A Lawyer’s Life.” The upswing in Cochran’s performance became apparent when Bradley referred to the book, saying he would be using it in his cross-examination. Cochran jokingly told him, “I am glad you bought the book.” After eliciting from Cochran that his team had conducted 50 interviews in the neighborhood of Club Rendevous, where the disturbance started that led to Louima’s arrest, Bradley insinuated that the Cochran team created problems for the federal prosecutors pursuing a criminal case against the police officers involved in the attack on Louima and its coverup. Under questioning, Cochran acknowledged that he had not provided reports of his interview to the federal prosecutor, but insisted that the interviews were relevant to the “pattern and practice” portion of Louima’s civil rights damage case, not the criminal case. TRUSTING POLICE INVESTIGATORS Bradley then framed a question from the book suggesting a different purpose. Had not Cochran written that he “never” trusts the police to investigate themselves? he asked. Cochran shot back that the Louima probe was “the best-run investigation I have ever seen,” and the prosecutors who led it, including former interim Eastern District U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad, were “outstanding, stellar prosecutors.” And he persisted, over opposition from Bradley, in referring him to another section of the book where he stated this was one of the “rare cases” where he had full confidence in federal prosecutors. During his cross-examination, Cochran described an incident shortly after his group was retained that revealed the tensions between the two groups of lawyers. At the meeting, Cochran described Figeroux as slamming down Scheck’s computer and saying “I am not intimidated by f–king technology.” Cochran further described “curse words” being used and “racial slurs” being directed at Neufeld and Scheck, both of whom are Jewish. Figeroux was so angered by Cochran’s depiction of the meeting that he rose to object that his role was being “misrepresented,” but his lawyer Thomas A. Kissane of Schlam Stone & Dolan quickly rushed over to him to prevent an outburst. The incident occurred during K.C. Okoli’s cross-examination of Cochran. Okoli represents Roper-Simpson. Earlier in the morning, Neufeld had angrily objected to Simon’s suggestion that the Cochran group had not made its files available to him. Shouting, Neufeld objected that the files had never been requested and the group had offered to let Simon review its file. Simon acknowledged that he had misspoken — that rather than asking for the file he had asked for time records and other specific documents.

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