Govt. Wires Lawyer as Informant to Tape and Incriminate Inmate

This story out of Omaha is just unbelievable. Well, maybe not, after last year's revelation about Frank Pignatelli (see here and here.) But if two cases of using defense lawyers as snitches to make cases against their clients are a trend, this one needs to stop.

Terry L. Haddock, a 52 year old defense lawyer in Omaha, decided to wear a wire while visiting more than 30 times with Shannon Williams, an inmate at the Douglas County Jail in Omaha, and set him up for a money laundering Indictment. From today's news:

Bellevue Police Sgt. John Stuck testified last week that he equipped Haddock with a wire and recorded more than 30 jailhouse meetings between Williams and Haddock in 2009. In the meetings, Stuck said, Williams would use Haddock's cell phone to divvy up hundreds of pounds of marijuana and to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money.

In their first jail meeting, Stuck said, Haddock informed Williams that he was not acting as an attorney and "would not do any legal work whatsoever for Mr. Williams." Williams disputed that. He said he hired Haddock while he was still out of jail, during his supervised release from a crack- cocaine-dealing conviction.


Pignatelli was working off his own misdeeds. It's unclear why Haddock decided to turn informant. No one wants to say, and while he's still listed on his firm's website, today's news article quoted above says he's told some people he's in the witness protection program.

From the first article, it seems Williams consulted Haddock in October, 2008 following a traffic stop and the seizure of one of his marijuana loads. Williams wasn't arrested, the driver was, and Williams hired Haddock to represent one of his runners from Omaha. He paid Haddock $8,000. Williams, it turns out, was on supervised release at the time from a crack sentence for which he had served 13 years.

The runner (who was not the driver) and the driver ratted out Williams, who later was arrested on a different pot charge in January, 2009 (after he was found running naked through a park and the cops trailed him to a house that had pot in it.) He posted bond and fled to Minnesota. Enter Haddock: He provides William's cell phone number to the cops who track down Williams, arrest him on a supervised release violation for his crack case and bring him back to jail in Omaha.

So Williams is in the county jail (Omaha doesn't have a federal detention center, they house their detainees at the county jail), arrested for violating his supervised release on his crack conviction.

The cops deny Haddock was helping Williams with his lawsuit to overturn his crack conviction and insist that Haddock was not acting as his counsel, but as a participant in the criminal venture. Williams says he began consulting Haddock before his arrest, while on supervised release.

Who's right? Here's my speculation. Williams has filed several pro se handwritten lawsuits: against jail officials for physically mistreating him, against Haddock's former law firm for Haddock's informing on him, and the one seeking to have his crack sentence and supervised release thrown out.

Here is Williams' handwritten, pro se habeas complaint (pdf)seeking to overturn his crack conviction, filed August 4, 2009. He cites the Klu Klux Act by statute number, its congressional history (referencing Ted Kennedy and Tip O'Neil) and studies presented to Congress showing the disparate effect of the crack laws on African Americans. Seems doubtful he picked that up on his own.

Here is his lawsuit against Haddock's firm filed in December. The handwriting seems different, suggesting to me a "jailhouse lawyer" (another inmate) wrote it for him. Not convinced? Check out his abuse lawsuit, where it seems the jailhouse lawyer began writing it, Williams took over on page 2 to describe what happened to him, and then the jailhouse lawyer takes over at the bottom of page 5 for the conclusion and request for relief. One give-away: Williams capitalizes his small "a"'s and the other guy doesn't. Also, the other guy's writing has a slant to it.

And see the lawsuit against the law firm, Paragraph 6, where it seems to me Williams added the last sentence to the other guy's handwritten paragraph, saying "I" paid Haddock $7,500.

Of course I'm just speculating, but it seems that someone, and not a jailhouse lawyer, helped Williams with the habeas lawsuit about his crack sentence in August, 2009. When was Haddock visiting him? According to William's lawsuit against Haddock's law firm, it was from April 30 to December 17, 2009. I wonder how many times they discussed the lawsuit between April 30 and August 4, 2009.

Even if Haddock told Williams he wasn't representing Williams in the lawsuit, if he gave advice on it, it seems reasonable that Williams would think Haddock was providing legal counsel to him and that they had a privileged relationship. It's not a requirement of the lawyer client privilege that the lawyer officially you in a court proceeding.

Of course, when a lawyer participates in the client's crime, the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege kicks in and the privilege no longer applies. But it's one thing for the client and lawyer to agree together to violate the law, and another for the cops on their own to get the lawyer to pretend to to agree with the client to violate the law. The latter, even if legal, seems morally bankrupt.

After all, why would Williams trust Haddock with the illegal details of his business? Because he trusted him. Why did he trust him? Because he thought he was his lawyer.

Whether it turns out to be legal or not, it's a really crummy way to make a pot and money laundering case. While I'm not shocked the U.S. Attorney's office and police department used the tactic, I can think of no justifiable excuse for Haddock. Like Pignatelli, he brings shame to the legal profession, and if only one defendant out there reads about Haddock and decides not to trust his or her lawyer with the truth, hindering their lawyer's ability to mount an effective defense, it's one person too many.

Some things are more important than catching drug dealers, and the public's faith in the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege is one of them.

< DC Circuit Appeals Court Upholds Denial of Yemini Detainee's Habeas Petition | Tuesday Night Open Thread >
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  • Display: Sort:
    Haddock is a dead man. (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 05, 2010 at 09:19:05 PM EST

    I hope not (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Jan 05, 2010 at 09:29:46 PM EST
    and please, don't give anyone ideas or condone violence on this site.

    Sorry. I knew a lawyer here who (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 05, 2010 at 09:33:27 PM EST
    represented an "M" defendant, who was convicted.  Lawyer and his family had to be relocated to the midwest for a number of years.

    what am I missing? (none / 0) (#4)
    by diogenes on Tue Jan 05, 2010 at 10:39:56 PM EST
         Williams used Haddock on an old, pre-jail case.  Haddock tells Williams while in jail that he was not representing him.  It was "reasonable" for Williams to assume that Haddock was "representing" him by lending him his (Haddock's) cell phone to divvy up marijuana and launder drug money which was outside the jail, although most jail regulations likely do not allow visitors to lend cell phones to inmates and all jail regulations do not allow crimes to be carried out from within the jail?
         What reasonable person would think that a lawyer lends them cell phones in jail to do drug deals?        
         Is this reasonable and customary practice for defense attorneys?  
    If you don't want to be stung for drug laundering, then don't borrow a cell phone.

    i'm confused. (none / 0) (#5)
    by cpinva on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 02:13:38 AM EST
    if haddock wasn't williams' attorney, what possible reason did he have for visiting him 30 or so times while he was in jail?

    were they just really, really good buddies?

    an attorney, who is not family or a friend, and who has represented me in the past, visits me 30 or so times, while i'm in jail. any reasonable person, viewing these facts, would conclude that williams was himself reasonable, in assuming that haddock was acting as his legal counsel.

    looks like... (none / 0) (#7)
    by diogenes on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 11:11:10 PM EST
    Looks like Williams said something like, "pretend you're my lawyer and visit me thirty times so that you can help me launder drug money.  Keep visiting so I have access to your cell phone thirty times because if I use the jail phone the guards might be listening in."

    Do the jail login records (none / 0) (#6)
    by downtownted on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 07:21:56 AM EST
    show him coming in as an attorney for Williams. If not the story goes on. If so, it is pretty damning.

    Sure, he signed in that way (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by diogenes on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 11:12:55 PM EST
    He signed in as a lawyer so he could lend him his cell phone.  This was a criminal operation.  If he signed in as "criminal co-conspirator delivering a cellphone to Williams" then the jail guards might have suspected something.