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Al Garcia

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Life after prison: Lobbyist Garcia is back at it

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON
  • Star Tribune
  • September 3, 2012 - 7:02 AM

Disbarred lawyer Al Garcia went to federal prison on a drug conviction, won acquittal on a rape charge, got released from custody and is back in the same business he began some two decades ago at Minneapolis City Hall.

Late last month, Garcia registered as a lobbyist with the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

He listed five businesses as clients: Alete Cleaning Services of Minnetonka, Cedar Towing and Auction of Minneapolis, Nina's Grill of Burnsville, EatStreet Social of Minneapolis, and Northeast Social of Minneapolis.

Garcia, who once was a criminal defense lawyer with an office in Minneapolis and a frequent man-about-town, now lists an Eden Prairie address. He answered a call to his cellphone with a promise to call back, but did not.

In response to an e-mail request for comment later Thursday, he wrote, "Be happy to talk with you about things and positive spiritual changes in my life and career, but preparing to leave for the weekend with wife, daughters and grandson."

A scrappy, smiling character around City Hall and the Hennepin County Courthouse, Garcia for years seemed to toy with, but ultimately skirt, serious trouble. As a North Side high school teenager, he got his start as an intern at City Hall. But his wild ways eventually ensnared him in a dramatic Anoka County drug bust in early 2009 when he was arrested with a former legal assistant on methamphetamine charges.

Garcia, 52, went into federal custody in November 2009. He pleaded guilty in January 2010 and was sentenced to five years in federal prison for possessing methamphetamine with the intent to sell.

He was subsequently acquitted in Hennepin County District Court of a criminal sexual-conduct charge involving a prospective female client in 2008. Several months ago, Garcia emerged from prison having lost substantial weight and his law license.

Although many lobbyists are lawyers, it isn't a requirement, so Garcia's conviction and 2010 disbarment don't prevent him from lobbying.

Jeff Sigurdson, assistance executive director of the state campaign finance board, said nothing in state law "would prohibit him from being a registered lobbyist."

In the disbarment order, the state Supreme Court said Garcia's "misconduct is substantial and varied." Among the misdeeds highlighted by the court was that Garcia misappropriated client funds, lied to conceal the theft and coerced false testimony from the client.

Garcia received his law license in 1991. In February 2006, the court suspended him for 30 days for failing to supervise a non-lawyer employee and failing to refund a portion of a client's retainer. He also was admonished and reprimanded in 2006 and 2008 for mishandling fees.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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