Image: Geoffrey Fieger
Carlos Osorio  /  AP
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger is best known for representing assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian.
updated 8/25/2007 8:41:51 AM ET 2007-08-25T12:41:51

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, best known for representing assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, was indicted on charges of conspiring to make more than $125,000 in illegal contributions to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards.

The 10-count indictment was returned Tuesday and unsealed Friday. It names both Fieger and Vernon Johnson, a partner in Fieger’s law firm.

Fieger, in a statement issued Friday afternoon, denied the charges, blaming President Bush’s administration, including a Justice Department led by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that Fieger says is politically motivated.

“The timing of these unprecedented charges, that have no support in fact or law, during the height of the presidential fundraising campaign, is solely intended to intimidate Democratic supporters around the country,” Fieger said.

The indictment claims that Fieger, 56, of Bloomfield Hills, and Johnson, 45, of Birmingham, recruited 60 people, known as straw donors, to make contributions in the then-maximum allowable amount of $2,000 per donor to the campaign of Edwards, a former trial lawyer. The contributions actually came from Fieger’s firm, the indictment says.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit said that campaign officials for Edwards, then a U.S. senator, weren’t aware of the alleged actions, and that Edwards and his campaign staff cooperated fully with the investigation.

Edwards spokeswoman Colleen Murray said in a statement that if the charges result in a conviction, the campaign will return the money.

Fieger has maintained he had nothing to do with his staff’s financial support for Edwards.

Fieger faces fines, prison
Federal agents raided his Southfield offices on Nov. 30, 2005, taking payroll and other financial documents, as well as ticket stubs for a fundraiser for Edwards and other campaign materials.

According to the indictment, Fieger and Johnson recruited a first round of employees or family members of employees as donors in March 2003, arranging $38,000 worth of illegal contributions. They later solicited additional donors, including non-attorney employees, Fieger’s friends and third-party vendors for Fieger or the firm, the indictment says.

The indictment also claims Fieger tried to obstruct the grand jury’s investigation by trying to shift responsibility for the contributions to a deceased officer of the Fieger firm and feeding grand jury witnesses false information.

Both men are charged with conspiracy, causing the Edwards campaign to unwittingly make false statements, making illegal campaign contributions in another’s name and making illegal campaign contributions from a corporation.

If convicted, each charge of conspiracy, false statements and illegal campaign contributions carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Obstruction of justice is punishable by up to 10 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.

Steven Fishman, an attorney representing Johnson, said his client hasn’t done anything wrong.

“In America, despite what Alberto Gonzales might think, people have the right to support political candidates who support their views,” Fishman said. “If that is a crime, citizens should be even more afraid of this administration than they already are.”

A flamboyant courtroom style
Gerry Spence, a prominent Wyoming trial attorney representing Fieger, said his client planned to address the charges during a news conference on Tuesday.

A court appearance for Fieger and Johnson wasn’t immediately scheduled, said Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

Fieger is known for his flamboyant courtroom style and outspokenness, notably in his former role as attorney for Kevorkian. The assisted suicide advocate claimed to have attended more than 130 deaths before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1999.

Fieger also ran for governor as a Democrat in 1998, losing to incumbent Republican John Engler.

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