Diallo’s top attorney Jeffrey Shapiro….off the case

Now DSK is destroyed, Shapiro and Siegel are surplus to requirements.


Legal team representing Diallo has tarnished history

In an explosive development, the maid accusing former IMF boss Dominic Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape has abruptly dropped two of her legal stars. Very quietly two days ago – the event was barely reported at all – helpless and poorly-educated Strauss-Kahn accuser Nafissatou Diallo parted company with top legal attorney Jeffrey Shapiro. Also off the team is prominent civil rights attorney Norman Siegel.

While Shapiro had always said his role was a ‘pro bono’ one of talking to the media, The Slog has never believed the story given out by the Diallo side that the hotshot defence lawyer was “a close family friend”. I don’t know many Manhattan lawyers who hobnob with taxi drivers and hotel maids in the Bronx.

Only two days ago, Shapiro told Salon magazine there was “no way that any aspect of this event could be construed as consensual.” He was still happy to be described then as ‘one of [Diallo’s] lawyers’….yet suddenly on that same day, he wasn’t. Did he too get hold of the DNA ‘evidence’ and spot how shaky it was?

More to the point, since Day One Jeffrey Shapiro has been a key member of the dramatis personnae: every US medium compiling a ‘know your DSK players’ page has featured the case as Brafman v Shapiro.

This is the equivalent of Manchester United severing Wayne Rooney’s contract on the eve of their Champions’ Cup Final. But the Murdoch press has been too busy reporting the gender of his cleaning staff and the colour of Strauss-Kahn’s rooftop umbrellas to spot it.

In fact, the nature and scale of Ms Diallo’s case has been dramatically narrowed. Following Strauss-Kahn’s arraignment two days ago, attorney Kenneth Thompson confirmed the situation, but most observers missed it. The residue team now consists of Thompson himself – and his own little Thompson Wigdor, a two-partner firm that focuses on criminal employment cases.

Some quick research reveals that Thompson Wigdor doesn’t have a squeaky-clean history. Just two weeks ago, the firm was fined $15,000 by U.S. District Judge William Pauley for allowing a client in an employment discrimination case to conceal that she had taken a new job for more money. The salary increase would have been relevant in determining damages awarded the woman. In Britain, we call this ‘withholding evidence’.

Eight days before that, Wigdor represented a woman who was claiming her boss harassed her with topless shots of his wife. Wigdor had compact discs of the photos, and Thompson Wigdor told opposing counsel they would return the photos in exchange for $2.5 million for his client. The boss’ wife then sued the law firm and its client for improperly using the pictures as leverage for a lawsuit. The law firm escaped the suit by claiming attorney-client privilege. In Britain, we call this ‘blackmail’.

The fact that this development has been glossed over by the media suggests to The Slog that they aren’t paying attention here. I raises serious questions, not the least of which are:

1. Shapiro’s abrupt departure suggests a lack of money on Diallo’s side. Fair enough, but was Shapiro fired, or did he find something he didn’t like? His practice wouldn’t return calls last night UK time. Thompson Wigdor refused to comment.

2. Shapiro’s appearance on the horizon in the early days of the case helped make it a big-deal, high profile jamboree. His departure now Strauss-Kahn has been dragged through the mud smacks of something not very nice. One thing I’d like to know, for example, is who asured Shapiro’s initial input? The ‘family friend’ line is risible bollocks.

3. Norman Siegel is also a serious player in the race-discrimination sector of US Law. As there was little in the way of a civil rights dimension to the affair, it seemed odd to have him on the team anyway. Again, one gets a sense here of hullabalou being created – of a media event guaranteed to sink DSK before he got anywhere near a Courtroom. Now that ‘job’ has been satisfactorily completed, Siegel too is history.

4. Do these developments mean that Thompson Wigdor and the Diallo family sense a big-money deal in the offing – a few days in Court featuring equivocal DNA evidence….followed by a bung to help her drop the main charges?

5. Nafissatou Diallo has been under the 24/7 ‘protection’ of the NYPD for the last three weeks; are we being asked to believe they had no hand in this at all?

There is more to come on this…..including a disturbing family link to Sarkozy.

Stay tuned.