NEW YORK, June 6 (Reuters) The maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault and attempted rape has pared down her legal team to a New York boutique accustomed to controversy.
After Strauss-Kahn's arraignment on Monday, attorney Kenneth Thompson said personal-injury attorney Jeffrey Shapiro, who handled the initial crush of media attention focused on the 32-year-old woman, is no longer with the team. Neither is prominent civil rights attorney Norman Siegel. Shapiro did not return messages seeking confirmation. Siegel confirmed that he is no longer representing the woman.
What remains is Thompson Wigdor, a two-partner firm that focuses on employment discrimination and criminal cases. Thompson himself is perhaps best known as the federal prosecutor who brought the criminal case against New York police officers for brutalizing Haitian-immigrant Abner Louima in 1997. The other partner in the firm is Douglas Wigdor, a former assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, N.Y., and a former attorney at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Thompson also worked at Morgan Lewis before the two founded their own firm in 2003, along with a third partner.
"The victim decided it was in her best interest to have only my law firm represent her," Thompson said. He declined to elaborate on the other attorneys' departures.
Thompson's firm is familiar with media attention. Last year, Thompson represented Sherr-Una Booker, the girlfriend of a former top aide to then-New York Gov. David Patterson. The aide, David Johnson, pleaded guilty to harassment and acknowledged that he shoved Booker - an incident that helped derail Patterson's re-election hopes. Thompson Wigdor also is representing a group of women in a high-profile sex-discrimination case against Citibank. The lawsuit was the subject of a Forbes cover story in 2009. Last month, Wigdor won a $23.7 million arbitration award on behalf of Jeffrey Speed, former chief financial officer of Six Flags Entertainment Corp., who claimed he was fired from the company without cause.
Some of media attention has focused on the Thompson Wigdor law firm itself. On May 26, the firm was sanctioned $15,000 by U.S. District Judge William Pauley, in the Southern District of New York. Pauley fined the firm for allowing a client in an employment discrimination case to conceal that she had gotten a new job for more money. The salary increase would have been relevant in determining damages awarded the woman. Scott Gilly, former name partner with then-Thompson Wigdor & Gilly, represented the client. Thompson said that Gilly and an associate on the case have since left the firm.
"They resigned in connection with the sanction," Thompson said. Attorney Guy Cohen, who represented the defendant, declined to comment. Gilly could not be reached for comment.
The law firm was again in spotlight last month. A New York appeals court ruled that Wigdor could not be sued by a rival firm in a case involving topless photographs. Wigdor represented a woman who claimed that her boss harassed her with topless photos of his wife. Wigdor had compact discs of the photos, and according to a May 24 decision, he told opposing counsel that he would return the photos in exchange for $2.5 million for his client. The boss' wife then sued the law firm and its client for improperly using the pictures as leverage for a lawsuit. The recent decision held that attorney-client privilege shielded Wigdor from the wife's case.
Most of Thompson Wigdor's cases are civil actions, said Thompson. His current role, he said, is to defend the maid against allegations by Strauss-Kahn's lawyers that she consented to having sex in the hotel room and to help prosecutors.
"My job right now is to make sure that this smear campaign is responded to effectively and to work with the district attorney's office to make sure that it has all the information to win the conviction against Dominique Strauss-Kahn," he said.
(Reporting by Leigh Jones)