Now that it’s clear that Karl Rove’s defense amounts to some sort of cover-blowing ‘I didn’t inhale’ defense, I thought I’d check in a bit on what his lawyer’s deal is. Reason being, as near as I can tell, Rove attorney Robert D. Luskin has made a series of, shall we say, contradictory statements over the last week or so, each necessitated by further revelations about his client’s conduct.
So I was curious: Is Robert D. Luskin the sort of lawyer who never gets caught in a fib or a misstatement on his client’s behalf? Or is he a bit more fast and loose?
Well, it turns out that Luskin is a rather colorful figure with not a bad sense of humor. In 1999, when the Legal Times asked him why he was shutting down his boutique litigation firm, he quipped: “To paraphrase Hobbes: The life of a boutique is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
One case that jumps out at you is his representation of Stephen A. Saccoccia.
Saccoccia and his wife Donna were eventually convicted of laundering more than a hundred million dollars for various Colombian drug kingpins. Stephen is currently serving a 660 year sentence. Their racket was laundering drug money through companies which traded in precious metals.
Saccoccia was convicted in 1993. And Luskin took up his case on appeal.
Eventually the Feds got the idea that the money Saccoccia had paid Luskin and his other attorneys for their services was itself part of the $137 million in drug money he was ordered to forfeit. Now, on the face of it this seems a bit unfair since under our system everyone is entitled to good representation and how was Luskin to know it was tainted money.
Well, the prosecutors thought he should have gotten some inkling when Saccoccia started paying Luskin’s attorney’s fees in gold bars.
Yep, you heard that right. Luskin got paid more than $500,000 of his attorney’s fees in gold bars from his client who was trying to appeal his conviction on charges that he laundered drug money through precious metals dealers. Who woulda thought that was drug money?
Luskin insisted that he “never have, and never would, knowingly accept a fee that was the proceeds of illegal activities.”
But when federal prosecutors finally got a chance to depose Luskin and Saccoccia’s other lawyers, they found that their lawyers’ fees had come in forms “such as gold bars, cash that was dropped off at hotels and trunks of cars, and money transfers from Swiss bank accounts.”
Eventually, in 1998, Luskin came to a settlement with the government in which he agreed to cough up $245,000 of the money he’d gotten from Saccoccia.
(ed.note: At first I couldn’t believe that Saccoccia’s Robert Luskin was the same guy Rove had defending him. The Saccoccia articles refer to Luskin as a partner in a firm called Comey Boyd & Luskin. But Luskin’s bio page at Patton Boggs, where reporters working the Rove story confirm that Rove’s lawyer works, makes no mention of such a firm. But a snippet in the December 20-27, 1999 Legal Times seems to settle the matter: “The D.C. litigation boutique of Comey, Boyd & Luskin is history. Name partner Robert Luskin is leaving the firm to join Patton Boggs Jan. 1.”)
Late Update: Also on Luskin, look at this piece today in the Times by Adam Liptak, and see if Luskin didn’t screw up and get his client in a lot of trouble by shooting off his mouth to the Journal.
Later Update: If you’d like to share your views on this, we’re discussing Rove and Luskin over here at the TPMCafe politics discussion table.