Before he became U.S. ambassador to Israel, former Kasowitz Benson Torres bankruptcy partner David Friedman represented real estate heir Robert Durst, who is listed in Friedman’s U.S. government ethics disclosure.
The disclosure form also shows Friedman made about $2.7 million from his Kasowitz partnership share in 2016. That’s nearly $1 million more than the firm’s average profits per partner of $1.86 million in 2016.
Friedman’s former law partner is name partner Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.
Durst is facing murder charges in California state court for the death of his friend, Susan Berman, in 2000. But Friedman represented Durst in a civil lawsuit in Nassau County Supreme Court over the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen McCormack.
McCormack’s sisters say Durst murdered her, and their civil lawsuit, filed in November 2015, claims Durst has concealed the whereabouts of her body, causing loss of “sepulcher”—the right of the next of kin to provide their deceased relative with a decent burial—and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Court documents show Friedman entered the case a month after it was filed. When he left to become the Trump administration’s ambassador to Israel earlier this year, partner Joshua Siegel took over in representing Durst.
Siegel filed papers Tuesday to dismiss the suit, alleging the sisters are trying to “cash in on Durst’s recent notoriety” from the HBO documentary, “The Jinx.”
Friedman’s disclosure form shows his other top clients, including real estate billionaire David Lichtenstein, ResCap Liquidating Trust, Harbinger Capital Partners, Renco, GoldenTree Asset Management; real estate companies Building and Land Technology and United Equities Co.; apparel manufacturer Delta Galil Industries USA Inc.; Israeli businessman Yosef Maiman; and attorney placement company Mestel & Co.
Friedman listed Brafman & Associates, a well-known defense boutique headed by attorney Benjamin Brafman, as another source of compensation and described Brafman’s firm under “legal services to private client.”
Brafman said in an interview he has long known Friedman as a friend and as a consultant on matters from time to time. Brafman said his firm may have made it onto the disclosure form because the two recently worked for a client whom they were able to keep from being prosecuted. Brafman said he disbursed a fee for the matter, which he declined to identify. “It never became a matter of public record,” he said.
Friedman has several business interests outside the law, including a winery. The disclosure form shows Friedman was a managing member of Karraben Wine in New York since 2014, while Israel’s Montefiore Winery is listed under other assets and income.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Friedman faced a grilling about his ties to Beit El, a controversial West Bank Israeli settlement, according to The Associated Press.
According to the disclosure form, he served as president of the U.S. fundraising arm, American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva Center. He was also board member of American Friends of United Hatzalah, a volunteer medical organization in Israel.
Additionally, Friedman had an interest in Israel-based Maverick Ventures, an investment firm for startup companies.
In an ethics letter, Friedman said he would resign from American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva Center; Karraben Wine; and American Friends of United Hatzalah, and within three months of his confirmation, transfer his interests in Maverick Ventures to one of his children.
Besides Friedman’s partnership income, his assets through the Kasowitz law firm included his anticipated retirement benefit, valued between $1 million and $5 million; his defined contribution plan; and his capital account, valued between $100,000 and $250,000. He said he would receive within 90 days of leaving the firm a lump sum payment of his capital. He was also removed as a name partner of the firm, which was called Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman before he joined the Trump administration.
Kasowitz representatives did not return messages seeking comment.