Everyone knows that Lindsay Lohan’s life has been a train wreck these past few years – numerous arrests, gossip-page scandals, a scathing article about her behavior in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. But the Lohan train may have gone completely over the cliff now that the movie star fired her California attorney Shawn Holley to be replaced by notorious NY shyster Mark Heller. Heller already represents her in her latest NY arrest for a dubious assault charge arising out of NY nightclub scuffle. Heller likely wormed his way into that representation through his son, Mark Jr. who is a big club promoter in the Hamptons.
What is strange is that no one from Lohan’s team would bother to check out Heller’s reputation here in NY. A quick Google search would have revealed that Mr. Heller had a NY Times expose’ of his own -written in 2010- that detailed Heller’s shenanigans and his five year suspension from the practice of law for deceit and fraud. The article discusses two of my clients who came to me after Heller ripped them off and damaged their cases. The first was the family of Hector Galeano who paid Heller over $50,000 for a Nassau County drug case. Heller told he family that he knew the judge and that the judge had agreed to accept a bribe to give Galenao probation. That probation was illegal for the level of charge Galeano was facing was apparently irrelevant. When the judge sentenced Galeano to five years to life in prison, Heller said the judge backed out of the deal and never spoke to the family again. We were unable to undo Heller’s damage, but the Galeanos’ complaint was one of the many that caused Heller’s five year suspension. The second of my clients mentioned in the article was David Johnson, aide to NY Governor David Patterson, one of the most highly-publicized cases of the day. David was charged with a misdemeanor assault arising out of an incident on Halloween between him and his live-in girlfriend. The allegation was that he became upset when his girlfriend was going to leave the house for a party dressed in a French maid costume. Heller had scheduled a press conference where he was going to parade a woman dressed in the same costume and attempt to argue: Look at her – Can you blame him? On the eve of the conference, we were retained to replace Heller and we immediately canceled the presser. That David told Heller he did not hit anyone that night was irrelevant to Heller. He wanted the big splash of a ridiculous press conference because headlines matter more than results, and more than clients, to him. The Johnson case ended quietly with a plea to a non-criminal offense of acting disorderly and payment of a fine.
Why do people with high-profile cases keep retaining him? New clients are likely dazzled by the headline clippings he shows them about the cases he has been involved in, but he never tells them, I’m sure, that he usually lasts one or two court appearances. The clients don’t do the follow up to see how those cases ended or who was the lawyer at the end. Here’s a quote from the Times article from one of Heller’s latest high-profile victims, Kristin Davis, the madam of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution ring:
“He gave me a big sales pitch, which included showing me articles about David Berkowitz, Puff Daddy, the base-jumper and others he had represented,” Ms. Davis fired him from her jail cell three months later, and later called his representation “disgraceful.”
I could go on with Tales of Heller – his overreaching, overcharging, grandstanding. The NY Times article only skims the surface but reveals that he rarely ends cases he gets retained on because clients routinely fire him after they see his stripes.
This latest change of lawyers boggles the mind. Shawn Holley has done an exemplary job representing Lindsay in California. Ms. Holley has always exhibited professionalism, grace and ability in handling the mess of the Lohan case. She is universally recognized as one of the premier criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, you would be hard pressed to find a lawyer with a more blemished reputation in NY than Mark Heller. How he will gain temporary admission to the California Bar, I don’t know. According to the NY Times article, when Heller tried to represent Jon Gosselin in his divorce in Pennsylvania, the court did not allow him to be admitted and he had to watch the case from the audience because apparently he didn’t disclose his suspension.
That Lindsay Lohan would even consider hiring Heller only goes to show that in today’s world, skill, experience and reputation are taking a backseat to notoriety (even if its notorious notoriety). The NY case against Lohan seems very weak, but the court in California may be running out of patience with her. It will be interesting to see how this latest move works out for her.
UPDATE: As expected, Lohan fired Heller and re-hired Shawn Holley. Not surprising since the judge in the criminal case called Heller “incompetent.”
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