By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Attorneys sometimes charge as much as 40 percent plus costs to represent Americans who have been gored by cops, jailers or doctors.
In reality, though, most cases get settled with cities, counties and states before trial. Deals get cut.
You don't need a law degree to make deals. You need a law degree to go to trial.
Schmidt, love him or hate him, is a master deal maker, apparently thanks to his ignorance of the lawyerly techniques of restraint.
So, for 23 percent instead of 40 percent of the cut, you give Schmidt durable power of attorney and Schmidt will make one of his killer deals for you with government risk-management officials.
If government won't cut a deal, Schmidt, the publicity machete, will publicly attack government officials while lining up his shark attorney buddies for a much more lucrative civil suit.
"What I'm doing is groundbreaking. The fact is, to be a good deal maker, what you need is brains and balls. And most lawyers don't have either one.
"I want to have a commercial: 'At Schmidt and Schmidt, we charge only 23 percent. We don't even talk to asshole lawyers unless we go to court.' People can make more for their pain and suffering because the lawyers won't be there gouging them."
He may not need commercials. Already he has been given durable power of attorney by another inmate whose arm was mangled allegedly because of shoddy jail and hospital care in Yavapai County.
The first guinea pig for this new cottage industry is Jefferson Davis McGee. Schmidt talked McGee into signing over power of attorney to him.
"I'm basically him," Schmidt says.
Schmidt then gave a notice of claim to Maricopa County's risk-management team. He claims the sheriff's office was negligent for not putting McGee in protective custody, then negligent for not stopping the protracted gang-beating.
Arpaio countered that the blame for the beating should be on the people who did it.
Schmidt also argues that McGee was given substandard medical treatment, leaving him with a huge scar where most splenectomies leave a four-inch scar.
But to walk loudly, Schmidt needed a big stick. He says numerous attorneys approached him about handling litigation if negotiation failed.
He wanted the best, though. So he claims he approached Johnnie Cochran and Arizona's own Michael Manning.
Cochran was too busy, Schmidt says. And that foiled his dream of a courtroom scene in which Cochran could exclaim:
"If the man has no spleen, you must give him some green!"
Manning, Schmidt says, claims he had a conflict because of a contract with the county.
Manning, perhaps Arizona's most respected trial attorney because of his successful battles with Charles Keating, Fife Symington and Joe Arpaio, says the county contract was not the reason he avoided the case.
"Mr. McGee has a very good claim," Manning says. "My reservations have nothing to do with the nature of the claim. At the end of the day, I was concerned with the fairness of what Mr. McGee would receive . . . in the deal proposed by Mr. Schmidt."
Schmidt is coy about his cut in the deal if attorneys must also be brought in for trial.
Also, Manning says he was concerned that Schmidt's "own issues with the county were unduly influencing [Schmidt's] analysis of Mr. McGee," referring to Schmidt's anger over his own child-abuse and harassment charges.
Nonetheless, Schmidt says he has plenty of lawyers waiting to pounce.
Good money says that's what will have to happen. Counties aren't too progressive in promoting new ways to raid their coffers. And Schmidt has already begun infuriating county officials.
In a blustery, incendiary and profoundly entertaining press release last week, Schmidt claimed the risk-management adjuster assigned to his case, David Unks, told him, "The dumb transient probably had it coming to him."
Risk-management officials deny Unks ever said it.
When questioned about the quote's veracity, Schmidt said: "Unks can't prove he didn't say it."
Schmidt, in Bob Dole-esque third person, also wrote: "Unks told Schmidt: 'We'll give McGee $2,000 to go away.' Aghast, Schmidt almost fell off his chair."
Schmidt described the offer as "the price you'd pay for two Vegas hookers for having your name, image and likeness erroneously plastered over the airwaves for the most heinous crime a man can commit."
This is hardball, Schmidt style.
More press releases are forthcoming. Schmidt promises they will be increasingly provocative. The person who suffers most will probably be the county's public information officer, Al Macias.
"What's ugly about this is that there is a very serious issue at the heart of all this," Macias says.
That would be the brutal murder of Elizabeth Byrd.
Schmidt dutifully calms his cavalier bravado when Byrd's name is mentioned. Schmidt says he wants the county to build a bike path in her name. He wants the county to provide busing services for little girls in south Phoenix so they "can get to school without getting murdered."
Sick gimmicks coming from Schmidt's mouth, his detractors say.
The other serious issue would be the guts of Jefferson Davis McGee.
McGee says he has been "kicking it with friends during the day, sleeping wherever I can at night." His chest hurts, the scar feels like a fat tube of cartilage running down his front. He can't drink beer anymore, arguably a good thing. Without his spleen, his blood won't be properly filtered. He may feel drained and be more susceptible to disease for the rest of his life.