Another Trial Lawyer on Trial: Geoffrey Fieger

By April 14, 2008Briefly Legal

After running up various defense theories up the courthouse flagpole, Michigan trial lawyer Geoffrey Fieger has decided his best protection against charges of campaign finance fraud is to plead ignorance. Really…

both government and defense lawyers have said in court filings and in statements at pretrial hearings that the case now hinges on “state of mind” — whether Fieger and Johnson knowingly broke the law.

“He would never have done that if he knew it was against the law,” Fieger lawyer David Nevin told Borman at a hearing last week. “He simply would have too much to lose and too little to gain.”

Fieger, whose career is largely based on knowledge of the law and who allegedly received a memo from one of his own attorneys warning him about the legality of his political fundraising methods, could face an uphill battle.

“It’s hard for lawyers to put on an ignorance defense,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former federal prosecutor. “Lawyers are expected to know the law and to know that when you’re in a gray area you have to clarify.”

Fieger and his law partner, Ven Johnson, were charged last year with conspiracy and campaign fraud for reimbursing employees who contributed to the presidential campaign of John Edwards. (More from the Detroit Free Press here and also here.)

Last week, the judge ruled that Fieger could not argue that he’s a victim of a government conspiracy targeting Democratic trial lawyers, as he protested in emetic TV commercials.

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