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Criminal Defense Lawyer Says Talk of Eliminating a Witness Wasn’t Literal

Posted Aug 5, 2009 9:22 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Criminal defense lawyer Robert Simels testified Tuesday that his talk of needing to "neutralize" or "eliminate" a witness shouldn’t be taken as a threat to do physical harm.

Simels, on trial for allegedly plotting to threaten and bribe a witness against his drug-kingpin client, said the terms are just “part of the vernacular of being a lawyer," the New York Daily News reports. The New York lawyer said didn’t think he was sanctioning harm when he was taped making the comments to a government informant, an associate of his client who offered to help track down witnesses. Instead, Simels said, he was flattering the informant and talking about the need to discredit the witness’s testimony, according to the stories.

“Throughout the week-and-a-half long trial, Simels' defense has centered on the idea that an attorney must go to extraordinary lengths to investigate a client's case,” the New York Law Journal reports, “even when it means—as in the present case—pretending to agree with one witness to terrorize others, in the hope of maintaining the relationship or developing new leads.”

The Daily News story described Simels as looking “dapper in a dark blue suit and yellow tie” and said he looked relaxed on the stand. The New York Law Journal said he appeared “calm and deliberate” and he looked directly at jurors as he testified.

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