Lawyer indicted for alleged illegal campaign money


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 indictment was returned Tuesday and unsealed Friday. It names both Fieger and Vernon Johnson, a partner in Fieger's law firm.

Fieger told radio station WWJ-AM that he would fight the charges and wasn't surprised by them. He blamed the Bush administration.

"We'll just embarrass these people," 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 Edwards campaign. 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.

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

Federal agents raided his Southfield offices in 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.

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 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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