Rare attempt underway to recoup court costs from defense attorneys

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2013 - 11:54 PM

The two were accused of presenting false witness statements and were ordered to repay court costs.

 

Two Twin Cities-area lawyers have been accused by the Hennepin County attorney of knowingly presenting at a hearing false witness statements that their client, a convicted murderer, had obtained by bribery and intimidation.

In a rare motion argued last week in Hennepin County District Court, County Attorney Mike Freeman demanded that lawyers Michael McGlennen and Zachary Longsdorf pay undisclosed litigation costs and invited the district court, the Sheriff’s Office and the state Department of Corrections to recoup their expenses.

“These attorneys had multiple opportunities to drop the hearing,” Freeman said in an interview this week. “I know this is very unusual, but these are extraordinary circumstances, and I’m asking for an extraordinary remedy.”

He added that he sees the lawyers’ actions as the most blatant act of fraud inflicted upon the court system in his 35-year legal career — a characterization that drew a rebuke from an attorney representing one of the targets of his criticism.

But Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said he believes that his Hennepin counterpart “is very much in the right” to seek monetary relief, given the facts of this case.

McGlennen and Longsdorf deny any wrongdoing.

The client at the center of the case is LaMonte Martin, a gang leader convicted in 2007 in the 2006 execution-style murder of 19-year-old Christopher Lynch in a Minneapolis alley. Martin now is serving a life sentence at Oak Park Heights prison. Three years later, the state Supreme Court affirmed Martin’s conviction.

In 2011, Martin petitioned the district court for a hearing examining his case, claiming witness recantation and due process violations, but a judge denied his request.

In October 2012, Martin and 10 others, mostly gang members and prison inmates, were charged with bribing and coercing witnesses to Lynch’s killing. The witnesses were told to recant testimony they had given at trial and to provide sworn affidavits to that effect, which were filed in support of Martin’s request for a hearing, Freeman said.

In January, the state Supreme Court ruled that Martin should receive the hearing he’d requested in district court to assess the credibility of the recanting witnesses, particularly Jermaine Mack-Lynch and Charles Pettis.

Longsdorf, whom Freeman said police had told about the witness tampering investigation of Martin, withdrew as his attorney in February.

McGlennen agreed to represent Martin in June and moved forward with preparation for the hearing, which was held in September. According to Freeman, he did so even after Mack-Lynch testified that he had filed a false affidavit, and Martin and Pettis pleaded guilty for their roles in the tampering case.

“You can’t do this,” Freeman said. “It’s simply wrong. I understand zealous representation. This is off the charts.”

‘Abuse of process’

At Martin’s hearing, District Judge Marilyn Rosenbaum ruled against him, writing that the recantations were not genuine, truthful or reliable. Rather, she wrote, they were the result of coercion, bribery, threats and violence.

“The State’s evidence supports a finding of abuse of process,” she wrote. “Martin used this court’s limited resources to perpetuate a fraud upon the judicial system.”

Minnesota rules about lawyers’ professional conduct and state statutes obligate attorneys to refuse to offer evidence they know is false or to disclose to the court if their client intends to offer false evidence.

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