Tuesday, April 3, 2012 | 10:01 a.m.
Florida-based celebrity attorney Yale Galanter received $500,000 for defending O.J. Simpson in his Las Vegas criminal case, but concealed that payment in order to avoid paying his Las Vegas co-counsel his $250,000 cut, the local attorney claims in a new lawsuit.
Las Vegas lawyer Gabriel Grasso filed suit Friday in Clark County District Court against Galanter, saying that after Simpson was arrested on Las Vegas robbery charges in a 2007 attempt to recover memorabilia, Galanter and Grasso agreed to associate as counsel to defend Simpson.
Their deal called for Grasso, who is described in the suit as a ''well-known and experienced criminal defense attorney,'' to assist Galanter as local counsel, Grasso contends.
Grasso was to receive $250,000, or a third of the $750,000 that Galanter had charged Simpson for defending the former football star, the lawsuit says.
Between preparation, the trial and post-trial work, Grasso claims, he put in more than 1,000 hours on the case.
''Grasso completed the vast majority of the pretrial work in the case, including the receipt and review of all discovery provided by law enforcement and the drafting and filing of all pretrial motions,'' the suit says.
Because of the publicity surrounding the case, the questioning of potential jurors about their suitability to serve, a process called ''voir dire,'' was extensive and time consuming, the suit says. Attorneys also had to deal with 22 witnesses who were called, plus prepare and litigate jury instructions, file and litigate post-trial motions and prepare and submit extensive documentation for Simpson’s sentencing, the suit says.
Because of this ''massive effort,'' Grasso contends, he was forced to hire additional staff and incur costs to help defend Simpson. Yet despite their agreement, Grasso claims, Galanter provided him with just $15,000 to cover a ''small portion'' of his expenses.
''Defendant Galanter repeatedly advised Grasso that he had not been paid any fees or provided with any payment towards accrued costs because Simpson had made no payments to him for representation,'' the lawsuit says.
In March 2009, several months after Simpson was sentenced to nine years in prison, Grasso learned that Galanter had been paid about $500,000 ''from Simpson and/or his representatives, for legal fees on the case.''
''None of these fees had been provided to plaintiff Grasso,'' the lawsuit says. ''When confronted with this fact, defendant Galanter advised plaintiff Grasso that he was ending their professional relationship and that plaintiff Grasso would be paid nothing for his services.''
The suit contains allegations of breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, fraudulent or intentional misrepresentation and constructive fraud.
''The specific concealments include that between September of 2007 and April of 2009, defendant Galanter concealed from plaintiff Grasso that he had, in fact, been paid large sums of money by Simpson and/or his representatives,'' the suit says.
Records at the Nevada Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal of Simpson’s conviction, show both Grasso and Galanter withdrew from representing Simpson during the appeals process.
Galanter said Tuesday he hadn't yet seen Grasso's lawsuit and that, after reviewing it, he may have a comment later. In recent years, he’s been representing actress Brooke Mueller as well as her ex-husband Charlie Sheen, according to his website.
''Mr. Grasso has been trying for the past three years to collect the money owed him under the agreement and was forced to resort to litigation when it became apparent that those efforts would not be successful and he had no choice but to proceed to litigation and preserve his rights under the statute of limitations on his claims,'' said the Las Vegas attorney representing him in the lawsuit, Joshua Tomsheck.