Democrats complain of Steele lawyering

GOP candidate wrongly practiced law in Tyson divorce case, party claims

October 04, 2002|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Democratic Party is asking the state to investigate whether Republican Michael S. Steele inappropriately mediated an alimony agreement between his sister and her estranged husband, professional boxer Mike Tyson.

Steele, a lawyer and the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, denies the charge and has accused the Democrats of meddling in his family's affairs.

The Democratic Party filed a complaint yesterday with the state Attorney Grievance Commission alleging that Steele, acting as an attorney, drafted a settlement agreement between Tyson and Monica Turner Tyson. A party spokesman said that would be illegal because Steele isn't licensed to practice law in Maryland.

"You are not allowed to break the law, whether you do it on behalf of your family or someone else," said David Paulson, communications director for the state Democratic Party.

Steele, who is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, said the Democrats have reached "a new low."

"I think it is despicable for the Democratic Party to politicize my sister's divorce," Steele said. "This is a baseless, malicious attack by a losing campaign."

In January, Monica Turner Tyson filed for a divorce from Tyson. According to documents filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, the two reached an alimony and child support agreement July 18. Tyson was to pay Turner $10 million, according to the documents. The agreement included an introductory clause that said Steele helped draft it.

Steele said yesterday Turner and Tyson drafted the agreement, but he reviewed it at their request. "They asked for my opinion and that is it," Steele said.

Tyson and his lawyer, Patrick W. Dragga, filed a motion last month asking that the July settlement be thrown out. The motion asks a judge to void the settlement because Dragga was not involved in creating it. It also alleges that Turner tricked Tyson into signing it.

Paulson said the Democrats decided to get involved because "we are a political party and Michael Steele is a political entity."

In May, Steele filed a complaint with the attorney grievance commission against a prominent Democrat, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. Steele - then head of the state Republican Party - asked the commission to investigate telephone calls Miller made to appellate judges about redistricting lawsuits.

"Michael Steele has filed many complaints like this that have gone nowhere," Paulson said. "When you put yourself up as the standard bearer of your party ... you are going to be scrutinized."

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