MobFellas: Simels, Gleeson, and Shargel

The only-in-NY trial that brings together a lawyer to drug kingpins, his mob attorney, and the Gotti prosecutor

Retired FBI agent Mark Johnston—who helped build cases against Mickens, Nichols, McGriff, and several of their associates—remembers Simels from those cases as a defense attorney who could come off as "crass and offensive," was capable of offending judge and jury alike, and would fight tooth and nail to contest even the most minor procedural issue. "Even though a lot of this is a show," says Johnston, "the defendant might think, 'Hey, this guy is really willing to be a rebel and fight for me', but all he's doing is ticking everybody off, and, in the long run, that is not going to serve you well."

In fact, court documents show that the presiding judge in the Mickens trial eventually recused himself from the case "due to the acrimonious relationship" that developed between him and Simels during the trial, and eventually recommended Simels for censure. The basis for disciplinary action was detailed in a 2005 memorandum denying Mickens's motion for a reduced sentence. Eastern District Judge Joanna Seybert concluded that Simels did not relay an offer of a plea deal to Mickens so that he could continue to collect legal fees. The judge wrote that Simels helped Mickens execute a power of attorney in the name of one of Mickens's aliases, so that Mickens's brother could access two safety deposit boxes that were said to be stocked with ill-gotten money. That, coupled with subsequent trips by Simels to Jackson, Mississippi, where the safety-deposit boxes were located, wrote Seybert, "raise the specter that Simels may have been willing to compromise his ethical obligations in an effort to be paid."

How much the word "ethics" will be bandied about in Gleeson's courtroom is anybody's guess. As the April trial date in the case against Bob Simels approached, the prosecutors' net seemed to have tightened around him. The government unsealed a new indictment against Simels based on evidence found amid materials confiscated from Simels's law office, which included "illegal electronic eavesdropping equipment, approximately $2,500 in cash, jewelry, a loaded firearm, and computers." The prosecution clearly felt confident enough in the new evidence to risk the likely postponement of the trial, which is now scheduled for July—at which time Bob Simels's tactics as a lawyer will get more public notice than he ever dreamed of.

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