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Another law firm surfaces in Rezko case

  Legal Business  -   POSTED: 2008/03/04 14:33

The name of the Bryan Cave law firm has come up in pretrial legal battles in the criminal case against politically connected entrepreneur Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

In a footnote to a motion last week seeking to exclude some government evidence against Rezko, his defense lawyers disclosed for first time that prosecutors have alleged that Rezko paid a $1.5 million bribe to Iraq's former electricity minister to obtain a contract in that country. The alleged bribe was paid from an escrow account held by Bryan Cave, prosecutors said.

Rezko's lawyers said that every aspect of the bribe claim is "demonstrably false."

The bribe allegation is unrelated to the federal influence-peddling and fraud charges against Rezko, whose trial began Monday with jury selection. Its disclosure shows the scope of Rezko's relationship with lawyers who have represented his real estate and restaurant businesses in civil matters.

Another law firm, Freeborn & Peters, was identified by prosecutors last month for its involvement in a $3.5 million overseas wire transfer to Rezko and his associates. The government did not suggest anything illegal on the law firm's part, but evidence of the wire transfer led a federal judge to revoke Rezko's bail in January.

Another one of Rezko's lawyers, Gene Murphy, was a partner in Bryan Cave's Chicago office from April 2004 to August 2005. When Murphy left Bryan Cave, the firm stopped representing Rezko, said Jeffrey Morof, the head of Bryan Cave's Chicago office.

Murphy, who has started his own law firm, said the claim that an alleged bribe came from a Bryan Cave account is "absolutely baseless." He declined further comment on Rezko, other than adding that he no longer represents him.

Morof also denied that the firm had any involvement in an alleged transfer of funds to the former electricity minister.

The bribe allegation came up in a private hearing held in the judge's chambers, according to Rezko's lawyers. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.

Blogger unmasked: A vocal critic of some patent lawsuits who blogged anonymously under the pseudonym "Patent Troll Tracker" has revealed himself after being pressured by one of his frequent targets. The blogger is Rick Frenkel, an intellectual-property lawyer at Cisco Systems.

He recently disclosed on his blog that he faced an e-mail threat of being named. In his blog, he tracked lawsuits by companies that acquired patents solely to sue for infringement. Chicago lawyer Raymond Niro represents a number of these entities that have come to be known by the derogatory term of patent trolls.

Niro, tired of being criticized anonymously in the blog, had recently offered a $10,000 bounty for anyone who unmasked the blogger. Niro said no one has stepped forward to claim the reward.

On the move: Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Rubinstein has joined Greenberg & Traurig's Chicago office as a shareholder, the firm's equivalent of partner. He worked in the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago for four years, primarily in the complex fraud section. ... Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal hired Brian Lambert as its chief marketing officer. He most recently was at Wachovia Corp., where he was head of business development in the treasury services division. ... Jennifer Nijman, a former president of the Chicago Bar Association, has left Winston & Strawn to start her own firm with Susan Franzetti, a solo practitioner who previously worked at Sonnenschein. Their practice will focus on representing businesses in environmental matters.


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