- The cult of secrecy surrounding President Bush's newly
retained lawyer in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case is so strong that the
White House refuses even to confirm who the president's lawyer is.
- White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters
that the lawyer's name was Jim Sharp, but refused even to confirm whether
he is James E. Sharp, a Washington attorney.
- But the smokescreen around Sharp goes far deeper than
that, and perhaps for good reason. The only other president to hire a private
attorney for acts committed while president, Richard Nixon, eventually
resigned from office.
- Sharp long has cloaked himself in secrecy, even taking
the unusual move of paying to have his address and telephone number removed
from the major Martindale legal directory. He was an assistant district
attorney before he came to Washington and has a history of taking on cases
with political implications.
- Sharp's highest profile client was Maj. Gen. Richard
V. Secord, a major figure in the Iran-Contra scandal who helped Lt. Col.
Oliver North accumulate untaxed wealth in overseas accounts.
- Far lesser known, however, is a 1994 finding by the 11th
Circuit Court of Appeals, where he engaged in "unethical and criminal
activity" for pressuring a witness to commit perjury. The charge was
leveled by one of Sharp's witnesses when he represented his self-avowed
"good friend" Joe Harry Pegg against a charge of conspiring to
import marijuana in 1988 and 1989.
- In 1994, when the case was being heard on appeal, the
lawyer for one of Pegg's co-conspirators contacted the prosecuting attorney,
Cynthia Collazo, saying that Sharp might have had "privileged conversations"
that might cause Sharp to have a conflict of interest in representing Pegg.
- "In unsworn statements, Baxter told Collazo that
shortly after he had been arrested in 1992 for participating in the marijuana
importation conspiracy charged in the instant case, Sharp had met with
him and arranged for Pegg to pay a portion of Baxter's legal fees,"
the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals transcript states. "Baxter then
stated that Pegg had retained attorney Dick Hibey to represent Baxter in
the case. Baxter further claimed that Sharp and Hibey helped him concoct
a false story to help exculpate Pegg."
- After Collazo expressed her concerns to Sharp, he decided
to remain on the case regardless. Though they did not dispute his actions
were criminal, thee government could not to pursue Sharp because they were
unable to prove the conflict adversely affected his counsel of Pegg, a
standard required by the Sixth Amendment.
- "The district court found and the government does
not deny that Sharp labored under an actual conflict of interest created
by co-conspirator Baxter's allegations that Sharp had engaged in unethical
and criminal activity in connection with his representation of Pegg,"
the transcript asserts.
- And, as the White House refuses to confirm Sharp's identity,
some speculate that he might also have been the Jim Sharp who served as
an attorney to Jeb Magruder, a player in the Watergate scandal. It's possible,
one blogger notes, since James E. Sharp, born in 1940, would have been
33 at the time.
- If it is the same case, Sharp was accused of sneaky dealing
there, too: A recent book by Tony Lukas - "Nightmare" - has Sharp
telling a Watergate defendant that he'll let him confess all first to get
a plea deal, then subsequently scheduling an appointment for his client,
Jeb Magruder, to get his deal first.
- Joseph E. diGenova, a former U.S. attorney who worked
with Sharp as a young prosecutor, told the Washington Post that Sharp is
known for his litigation skills.
- He's "a brilliant tactician who is very persuasive"
he said, and "folksy like a fox."
- Copyright © 2004 Raw Story Media. All rights reserved.