Defense attorney Leslie Stein gripped both sides of the witness stand on Thursday as he forcefully rebutted allegations that he had tried to coerce a witness in a murder trial to change his testimony.
"Of course not!" he exclaimed when Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Wiggins asked Stein whether he'd called witness Christopher Meadows a snitch and threatened him and his family.
"Did you tell the witness to lie?" Wiggins asked Stein.
Stein threw his hands in the air. "For this case? Why?" he thundered. He turned to the judge: "You know, your honor, these questions are absolutely insulting."
At 65, Stein is a veteran of the courthouse. He has 35 years of experience, including 28 as a defense attorney. He cut his teeth in the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office, spending his first seven years prosecuting cases. Among his co-workers was Timothy Doory.
Now Doory is a Baltimore Circuit Court judge, and he was the one who ruled yesterday that Stein would have to testify about his interactions with the witness in the murder trial of Bryant Williams. After that ruling, Stein stepped aside as Williams' attorney.
As he made his ruling, the judge acknowledged that he was "in a most uncomfortable position" sitting in judgment of a former colleague and friend. Doory said his ruling reflected not a belief in Meadows over Stein but a belief that a jury should hear about the interaction.
Fellow defense attorney Warren Brown, who attended part of the hearing, said Stein was "experienced and intelligent."
"His ethics have never been questioned," Brown said.
The Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, which keeps records dating to the 1940s, said it has never publicly disciplined Stein.
He maintains a solo criminal defense practice in the 2200 block of St. Paul St. Stein could not be reached yesterday afternoon. Although Stein stepped down yesterday in the Williams case, court records show he is representing half a dozen other city defendants - including another man accused of murder.
In closing arguments yesterday for the motions hearing, attorney Leonard J. Levine, who represented Stein and Williams, called the prosecutor's attack on Stein's reputation "disgusting."
"This seems to be a well-organized and vitriolic attack on Mr. Stein," Levine said in the hearing. "They are going after Mr. Stein with a vengeance. It's a misuse of power."