Stranger Than Fiction

Because you find yourself in trouble, you go to see an attorney.
For almost two years you pour your heart out, plot strategy and reveal your most secret fears and schemes. Then you discover that your attorney wore a body bug which transmitted the conversations between the two of you to the secret police. Your attorney gathered evidence against you which he then turned over to the government.

It just so happens that the attorney you picked was himself the target of a government investigation. To save his own skin, he volunteered to set you up.

This assault on fundamental legal ethics was masterminded by the government's prosecutor.

You are mistaken if you think the government in question was Panamanian, South African or Red Chinese. This is a story of American justice.

You are mistaken if you think the prosecutor who orchestrated this rape of the attorney-client privilege was censured by the bar once his conduct was unmasked.

In fact, just the opposite is true. The former prosecutor is being honored by the State Bar of Arizona tomorrow as its featured luncheon speaker.

The celebrated Scott Turow is the ex-prosecutor behind this appalling episode.

In 1987 the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, labeled Turow's conduct "reprehensible" and suggested disciplinary action by the Bar in Illinois. This opinion was not part of a court mood that coddled criminals and hamstrung prosecutors. In fact, the Eleventh Circuit slammed the jail cell door shut upon the client whose conversations were taped by his own attorney for the FBI under the direction of Turow. Nonetheless, the court said later "that Turow may have committed an obstruction of justice violation . . . " that merited the attention of the United States Justice Department.

Incredibly, when the enforcement arm of the Illinois Bar and the U.S. Justice Department reviewed the matter, the very best minds of the law could find no wrongdoing.

You, the reader, or you who have hired an attorney might think there is something wrong, something terribly wrong, with a lawyer who tape-records his clients secretly on behalf of a government prosecutor. But you simply do not understand.

Chicago lawyer Scott Turow is a Renaissance man. While others hope for success in any single career, Turow is accomplished both as an attorney and as an author of fiction and nonfiction. Of course, he distinguished himself in school, first at Stanford, later at Harvard. As a student, he penned One L, an account of his first year in law school which is still a hot ticket with those consumed in the "paper chase." In 1987, Turow published the courtroom thriller Presumed Innocent, which was a Dual Main Selection of the Literary Guild. His confident smile radiates from his dust jacket photo, a dead ringer for a modern Edward G. Robinson. This taut, fictional drama became a best seller and will be released as a movie from United Artists.

As a U.S. attorney in Chicago, Turow made a name for himself as a relentless and ruthless government prosecutor who gained further notoriety for his role in the infamous sting directed against judicial corruption, "Operation Greylord." On September 18, 1988, the New York Times Magazine published "Law School v. Reality," Turow's essay on the education of hard knocks that is the practice of "The Law" on the streets as opposed to the academic theory students pick up from professors on their path to a degree.

So you see, men like Turow do not suffer limits or acknowledge boundaries. Theirs, after all, is not common clay. How then do the giants who stride this earth taking large bites out of the landscape deal with the bridle of ethics that restrains mere mortals? This is the story of one such giant, a man the Arizona Bar chose to spotlight in a forum of honor and respect.

In December 1982, Ronald Ofshe was arrested in Miramar, Florida, for possession with intent to distribute four and a half pounds of cocaine. He hired Marvin Glass as co-counsel.

During his representation of Ofshe, attorney Glass learned that Chicago authorities intended to sweep him up in "Operation Greylord" for his role in bribing judges in Illinois. In hope of buying favor, Glass told Turow that he could provide the young prosecutor with a conspiracy to smuggle 2,000 pounds of pot as well as launder drug money. The alleged conspirator was his client, Ronald Ofshe.

Turow, after gaining clearance from his superiors in the U.S. Attorney's Office, wired Glass for his conversations with Ofshe.

Turow explained this mortal breach of the attorney-client relationship with appealing conviction: "I believed--and continue to believe--that neither clients nor lawyers have the right to plan crimes secure from law enforcement efforts."

Of course, neither do husbands and wives have the right to plan crimes, so perhaps we ought to forgo appearances by attaching a wire to spouses. And certainly if we bugged confessionals, the conversations between priests and sinners would be revealing.

When asked how the government could be sure it wasn't being used by Glass or how the government could be sure that Glass wasn't setting up Ofshe, Turow responded, "That's why the tape was necessary."

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