In a recent trial in federal court in Boston, well-known lawyer Robert A. George stood before a jury for his closing arguments, and spoke directly.
“When you’re innocent, you have a right to stand up and say something,’’ he declared in defense of his client, a Dorchester nurse and a mother of five charged with distributing prescription drugs.
But George might well have been speaking for himself - because he, too, is about to stand trial.
The 57-year-old father of three is accused by federal prosecutors of conspiring to help a former client launder drug money, and of restructuring bank deposits in violation of tax laws. Jury selection is slated for Tuesday. The case is a fight for his career and his livelihood.
The arrest of George in March 2011 caused a stir in the legal community, and defense lawyers descended on the Moakley courthouse to show their support.
‘He has been laser focused on his clients’ cases, as well as his own. He is a ferocious advocate unlike anyone I have ever worked for.’Thomas Shamshak, Investigator
In the year since Drug Enforcement Administration agents first swarmed his home, George, known for his testy exchanges with prosecutors, has represented clients just as aggressively as he did years ago when he defended Mafia figures and, later, the trash collector who maintains he was wrongly convicted of murdering Cape Cod fashion writer Christa Worthington.
George has also fought for a new trial for a former Stoughton police chief after finding information about one of the jurors that could have excluded her from serving on the panel in that extortion case. That request is pending in state court.
He has been working on his own case with two of the state’s better known defense lawyers, Robert M. Goldstein and Kevin R. Reddington. With them, he has filed repeated motions.
George has accused prosecutors of retaliating against him, being vindictive because of his defense of a man accused of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor several years ago. He has questioned the propriety of the government’s use of a confidential informant in his case, a man with a lengthy criminal history.
George and his lawyers are even attempting to include US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz on his witness list.
“He has been laser focused on his clients’ cases, as well as his own,’’ said Thomas Shamshak, a former police chief in Spencer and Winthrop and a Somerville lieutenant who founded his own private investigative firm. He has worked with George on several cases, including this one. “He is a ferocious advocate unlike anyone I have ever worked for.’’
Martin Weinberg, a lawyer who has represented high-profile clients in federal court and who won the acquittal of a lawyer in a racketeering case several years ago in Florida, said the case also demonstrates the quintessential challenge for any lawyer: representing another criminal defense lawyer and the symbolism that comes with it.
“There’s always that added context, that you’re representing the lifestyle,’’ said Weinberg. “You’re representing everything he is.’’
Lawyers in Massachusetts can lose their law license if they are convicted of a felony, but nothing prevents them from carrying out their practice until their case has concluded.
Court rules require only that a lawyer notify his or her clients of the pending charges. A lawyer would have to notify the state Office of Bar Counsel if convicted.
George, who has lived on Cape Cod and the suburbs west of Boston, faces up to 20 years in prison on charges of trying to help a former client launder his drug-dealing profits for a fee, by referring him to a mortgage broker who would help him.
The former client, Ronald Dardinski, was cooperating with authorities, and George alleges he was targeted by authorities because he represented a man who in 2007 plotted to kill prosecutor Jack Pirozzolo.
Prosecutors rejected that allegation, and US District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton refused to dismiss the case or to hold an evidentiary hearing, saying there was no evidence of retaliation. Prosecutors say they have audio recordings of George setting up the money-laundering scheme.
Rosemary Scapicchio, a friend of George’s, represented him at his initial hearing, before he could hire Reddington, and she lashed out at prosecutors for “investigating a criminal defense attorney who is out there protecting people’s rights. This is outrageous.’’
It is not the first time a defense lawyer has been a defendant in federal court in Boston. Last January, for instance, Gorton admonished attorney Lawrence M. Perlmutter before sentencing him to 5 1/2 years for laundering drug profits for his clients.
“You have disgraced not only yourself, but the rest of us who hold our profession in the highest esteem, and for what?’’ Gorton hissed. He is the same judge in George’s case.
George and his lawyers would not comment for this article.
One of George’s last appearances in a federal courtroom was May 9, for the sentencing of Gladys Ihenacho, the Dorchester nurse and wife of a pharmacist. Her husband, Baldwin, who had a different lawyer, was sentenced to 63 months in prison.
Gladys was acquitted of 23 of the 30 charges she faced.
Prosecutors had asked that she serve 27 months in prison, saying she showed greed. But George had asked that she serve no prison time because she had a family to care for, and argued that the charges did not reflect her work as a mother.
She was sentenced to probation, with 10 days of home detention, and went home that day.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly named the law enforcement agency that arrested Robert A. George at his home last year. It was the US Drug Enforcement Administration.