Attorney Accuses Ex-client

Defense Lawyer Says He Was Threatened

August 13, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,Sun reporter

A Baltimore defense attorney who took the stand last week to defend himself against allegations of witness tampering has filed assault and witness retaliation charges against a former client.

Tony N. Garcia is alleging that Charles Robinson, 31, confronted him and demanded that his colleague, defense attorney Ivan Bates, refund him his $2,500 fee. Garcia had assisted Bates with Robinson's case.

When Garcia told Robinson that he wasn't his primary attorney and that Robinson would have to take the matter up with Bates, Robinson replied, "I can walk up on you any time, anywhere. The next time I won't be talking," Garcia alleged in charging documents. Robinson then extended his hand and fingers in the shape of a gun, Garcia wrote.

FOR THE RECORD - In August 8 and August 13, 2008 articles, The Baltimore Sun erroneously reported that attorney Ivan Bates' law license was at risk. An attorney representing Bates said that the license would be at risk if Bates disclosed attorney-client privilege information.

During Robinson's recent trial on theft and assault charges, his new attorney, Christie Needleman, called Bates and Garcia, who had previously represented him, to the witness stand. She accused Bates of negotiating and Garcia of drawing up an improper contract in which Robinson would pay the victim $690 for not pursuing "civil or criminal remedies."

Bates and Garcia tried to get out of testifying by bringing in their own attorneys and invoking the attorney-client privilege and their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

Garcia testified that Bates asked him to draw up the contract based on the outcome of negotiations between Robinson's mother and the victim. Garcia wasn't involved in those talks, he testified. Bates denied on the witness stand ever asking Garcia to author the contract, which was on Bates' letterhead.

"The client feels that Ivan Bates left him high and dry to cover for his own mistake," Needleman said. "He feels that Ivan didn't tell the truth on the witness stand and basically denied having anything to do with the contract other than witnessing it. This wouldn't be a big deal if Ivan had said, 'I'm sorry. Here's your money back. I don't feel like I earned it.' "

Needleman said Bates described the agreement to Robinson as a legal method of ensuring that the victim, tow truck operator Richard Felty, wouldn't show up for trial. Without Felty's testimony, prosecutor Kelly Madigan would have had to drop the charges.

A jury acquitted Robinson of all charges. Felty testified that the man who stole his cell phone and camera during a dispute over a tow looked nothing like Robinson.

During a bench conference, Judge Shirley Marie Watts said the contract was "not the best thing to do," and Bates' attorney said the veteran lawyer's law license was at risk.

Garcia's charges "are retaliation" for embarrassing information appearing in the news media, Robinson's aunt, Richard Etta Smith, said yesterday. "I don't think my nephew did any harm or hurt to the man physically."

Robinson was arrested at the city's Circuit Courthouse yesterday as he was about to appear for a violation-of-probation hearing.

In court records, Garcia alleged that Robinson noticed him Friday at Guilford Avenue and Saratoga Street, got out of a white car driven by a woman, and said, "Tell Bates to give me my money back, and we will be straight."

Efforts by Garcia to explain that he had no control over the money did not placate Robinson.

Garcia wrote that he felt that Robinson, given his "criminal record and history of violence," was "ready, willing and able to carry out" the threats.

Bates and Garcia did not return phone messages.

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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