Barry P. Wilson, a volcanic Boston defense lawyer who spent just over a month in jail last year for contempt after another courtroom outburst, is now facing a slew of professional misconduct allegations that could result in the loss of his license to practice law.
But the flamboyant attorney, whose past clients have included former city councilor Chuck Turner and dozens of murder defendants, is hardly worried.
“They’ve been trying to get my ticket for a long time,” Wilson, 63, said of the state body that oversees lawyers and of the possibility that he could lose his license. “And I view it as a badge of honor.”
Wilson, known for his booming, gravelly voice and his combative bearing, will appear Tuesday for a prehearing before the state Board of Bar Overseers.
“I don’t want to slap them in the head, but I wonder if this would go forward if this was somebody else,” he said.
Wilson is accused of repeatedly disrupting proceedings in Suffolk and Plymouth counties in drug and murder cases and questioning judges’ integrity “with reckless disregard” to the “truth or falsity” of his statements, said the complaint brought by the Office of the Bar Counsel, which investigates alleged misconduct by lawyers.
He faces a range of sanctions from censure to disbarment. The Supreme Judicial Court will have the final say on what punishment, if any, to mete out.
‘They’ve been trying to get my ticket for a long time. ’
John Cunha, past president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the case could have implications for his colleagues’ ability to fight for their clients.
“When the lawyer is afraid to punch [or feels] that a punch has to be pulled or he’s going to be in jeopardy, it’s the client that suffers, it’s the system that suffers, it’s the society that suffers,” Cunha said.
In one of the trials mentioned in the complaint, a murder case in Suffolk Superior Court in March 2010, Wilson lashed out at Justice Thomas Connolly during a sidebar conference, according to a transcript.
“You’re the one who, whenever I make any points, shows that you’re biased against the defense,” Wilson told Connolly. “You’re the [one] who’s already said that these guys are guilty as far as you’re concerned.”
Pressed by Connolly to say exactly when he made that statement, Wilson replied, “I’ve heard rumor” that the judge said as much. Connolly later said it was “outrageous” for Wilson to make the unsubstantiated claim.
The complaint, known as a petition for discipline, also mentions his conduct in a Suffolk murder trial in May 2011 that landed Wilson in jail. At that trial, Wilson berated Justice Patrick F. Brady for seating a juror with a law enforcement background after dismissing a woman who said that her two sons had criminal records.
Wilson, records show, also said of another prospective juror, “This was my lucky juror. He’s 32. That’s his number, and his age is 32. It was happening. He was going to let my client go. I’m really disturbed that he’s not here.”
Brady deemed Wilson’s conduct the worst he had seen in two decades on the bench, and the lawyer was sentenced to 90 days in jail. It was his second trip behind bars for contempt, and he wound up serving 38 days beginning in May 2012.
Brady wrote in his contempt finding, “Mr. Wilson lost his temper at a ruling of the court and delivered a loud, abusive, insulting, and disruptive outburst in defiance of the court ruling.”
Wilson and his attorney, Joseph F. Krowski, insist that he was only providing zealous advocacy for his clients. Krowski called Wilson “one of the most, if not the most, zealous advocate in the Commonwealth.”
He said of Wilson’s adversaries, “They’d like to see him out of the picture, because he’s a thorn in every prosecutor’s side when he shows up. . . . This reminds me of the old image of all the Chihuahuas barking at the heels of a Great Dane.”
A spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley declined to comment for this article.
But when Wilson turned himself in to begin his jail term in May 2012, Conley said that he must take responsibility for his actions.
“Zealous advocacy for a client isn’t a license to disrupt proceedings, abuse opposing counsel, or disrespect judges and jurors,” Conley said at the time.
Wilson, for his part, had apparently soured on the profession when he surrendered, telling the Globe that he was done practicing law and wanted to “just take it easy, man.”
But retirement was ultimately not in the cards.
“I took some time off, but I’m rejuvenated now, and I understand that it’s what I know how to do,” Wilson said recently. “I’m not going to let these people take it away from me.”
Ilya Zinov, 24, of Barnstable, is glad that Wilson changed his mind. The lawyer won an acquittal for Zinov May 30 in Barnstable Superior Court in a triple-shooting case, and the young man is grateful.
“I would have never had the fair trial I received, if it wasn’t for him,” Zinov said. “He’s aggressive to get justice. He’s not stopping at anything.”
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, whose office prosecuted Zinov, chose his words carefully when describing Wilson, calling him a skilled and passionate lawyer who “can be somewhat difficult to deal with.”
“But you know, I hate to see anything bad happen to any lawyer, and particularly if it has to do with over-zealousness, as distinguished from fooling around with people’s money,” O’Keefe said.
For now, Wilson remains in the game. And he wants the public to know it.
“If they ask, Wilson’s back,” he said.Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.