Defense lawyer Cheryl Coleman thought it was a brilliant idea to hire her local Assistant District Attorney – the aptly named Steve Sharp – to write her criminal appeals on the QT. For years, Sharp and Coleman regularly appeared against each other in court without anyone’s knowing about their sideline arrangemen. Not the judge, not the client on trial, and certainly not Sharp’s boss the Albany District Attorney.
This was probably La Coleman’s worst idea since going to a Halloween party as Tawana Brawley.
An appellate attorney discovered the boondoggle. He urged the pair to come clean and inform the court. Sharp and Coleman refused, indignantly accusing the attorney of extortion and trying to ruin Sharp’s career and stoutly maintaining that they were doing nothing wrong.
“It isn’t that big a deal to do some issue spotting for another attorney,” explained Sharp. “The notion that Ms. Coleman aided me in furtherance of my career is, quite frankly, laughable.”
“Completely ethical,” chimed in Coleman. Besides, she said, all the Sharp-authored appeals were for cases “far from Albany.”
Even after learning that Sharp was secretly working for a defense lawyer while acting as her adversary in court, Albany DA Soares did nothing.
Until the Albany Times Union broke the story a month and a half later.
Soares fired his subordinate, but not without giving him a “very positive” recommendation to the Albany Public Defender, Stephen Herrick. Herrick was thrilled to give him a job. “I’ve seen him grow as an attorney, as a human being,” he gushed. “He’s one of the brightest young legal minds that I’ve seen in the Capital District.”
It’s unlikely that the Public Defender’s Office was Sharp’s first choice, given that he’d been pulling down a salary of $112,164 at the DA’s Office and still felt the need to make money on the side. We imagine the phone calls not reported in the Times Union:
VOICE: You have reached the Office of the Very Far From Albany District Attorney.
ALBANY DA: Say, Joe, how would you like to hire one of the brightest young legal minds in the Capital District?
VFFA DA: Why’re you letting him go? A #MeToo problem?
ALBANY DA: Ha, ha. No, he’s just been doing a little issue spotting on the side. If you know what I mean.
VFFA DA: Oh, him. Yeah, I really want to hire an ADA who sees nothing wrong with getting paid to challenge convictions obtained by our Office. The idea is, quite frankly, laughable.
ALBANY DA: But you’re very far from Albany.
VFFA DA: That doesn’t mean we’re in China. All his appeals were to the same appellate court as Albany. Plus, how does it look to have a prosecutor doing a trial against a defense attorney that he’s secretly working for?
ALBANY DA: But I’ve seen him grow as a human being.
VFFA DA: Looking at their photographs, I’d say they both look pretty developed as human beings. Why doesn’t he just go work for her openly?
ALBANY DA: I guess without the secrecy it loses that je ne sais quoi.