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Legal Malpractice, Conflict of Interest, Fraud, and former NYPD Commissioner

If a lawyer is trying to defraud a client while at the same time cooperating with law enforcement during a criminal investigation of that same client, is the lawyer commiting legal malpractice, conflict of interest, criminal activity, or all three? 

Lawyer for Alex Rodriguez faces  malpractice lawsuit from Bernard Kerik former NYPD commissioner.

The New York Daily News reports that, the attorney Joe Tacopina "secretly cooperated with federal prosecutors against Kerik and sold him down the river through a series of events reminiscent of ‘The Godfather.'"

JANUARY 24, 2014. By Teri Thompson, Michael O’Keeffe and Nathaniel Vinton, New York Daily News,

Fresh off a big-league drilling in the Alex Rodriguez doping case, celebrity attorney Joe Tacopina took another beaning Thursday when former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik took aim at the brash lawyer in U.S. District Court in Newark.

Kerik’s 10-count negligence and malpractice suit, filed late Thursday night, accuses Tacopina, his former lawyer and close friend, of conduct that “started the snowball of criminal investigations” that led to Kerik’s epic fall from Homeland Security nominee to a four-year sentence in a federal prison in Maryland.

The suit claims Tacopina “sold Mr. Kerik down the river through a “series of events reminiscent of ‘The Godfather.’"

According to the 84-page complaint, Tacopina secretly cooperated with federal prosecutors against Kerik and schemed to defraud Kerik out of a seven-figure fee in a real estate deal, “jeopardizing Mr. Kerik’s bail conditions and liberty interests” by contacting Kerik at a time when Tacopina was a formally listed as a government witness against him.

The suit says Tacopina called Kerik at his New Jersey home on Dec. 9, 2007, despite being on a list of witnesses who might be called to testify against Kerik and “despite instructions to stay away from Mr. Kerik” and the fact that “he was precluded from having any direct or indirect contact with Mr. Kerik by the court.”

“It is a very sad commentary that we are bringing this action against attorneys but this is necessary and in the interest of justice to do so. You can’t just let this lie because it is so egregious,” said Athan Tsimpedes, a Washington-based lawyer who helped draft the suit.

The complaint centers on Tacopina’s representation of Kerik in the lead-up to the former top cop’s June 2006 guilty plea in a Bronx court to two misdemeanors that Tacopina allegedly described to Kerik as a “violation, no different from pissing on the sidewalk.” The suit says Tacopina promised that no harm would come of the plea, when in fact the plea was “the catalyst to federal criminal charges” that soon followed.

Kerik also named Michael S. Ross, a prominent ethics attorney in New York, as a defendant in the complaint, “for aiding and assisting in the intentional production of privileged information to federal prosecutors against the interest of Mr. Kerik.”

In December, an attorney representing Tacopina, Lanny Davis, called the allegations that Tacopina had violated his professional ethics during his representation of Kerik “lies and innuendo that are being spread by those with an obvious agenda.”

As the Daily News first reported on Dec. 28, Kerik claims Tacopina attempted to defraud him of a finder’s fee in a real estate deal with Rafaello Follieri, the flamboyant Italian con man who was the boyfriend of actress Anne Hathaway. Follieri was later convicted of fraud and deported to Italy after serving four years in a federal prison in Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit includes a timeline in which Tacopina sought Kerik’s assistance in funding a $100 million Follieri venture, then allegedly attempted to defraud Kerik out of his share of a seven-figure finder’s fee in the weeks before and after federal prosecutors hit Kerik with a 16-count indictment on Nov. 8, 2007.

During that time, Kerik claims, Tacopina was cooperating with those same prosecutors, who had subpoenaed his records earlier that year, creating a conflict that forced Tacopina to stop representing Kerik as well as a handful of other Tacopina clients charged with crimes in the Southern District of New York.

The full story can be read at:

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