White House press secretary Scott McClellan told
reporters June 3 that the lawyer’s name was
Jim Sharp, but refused even to confirm whether he
is James E. Sharp, a Washington attorney.
But the smokescreen around Sharp goes far deeper
than that, and perhaps for good reason. The only other
president to hire a private attorney for acts committed
while president, Richard Nixon, eventually resigned
Sharp long has cloaked himself in secrecy, even taking
the unusual move of paying to have his address and
telephone number removed from the major Martindale
legal directory. He was an assistant district attorney
before he came to Washington and has a history of
taking on cases with political implications.
Sharp’s highest profile client was Maj. Gen.
Richard V. Secord, a major figure in the Iran-Contra
scandal who helped Lt. Col. Oliver North accumulate
untaxed wealth in overseas accounts.
Far lesser known, however, is a 1994
finding by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals,
where he engaged in “unethical and criminal
activity” for pressuring a witness to commit
perjury. The charge was leveled by one of Sharp’s
witnesses when he represented his self-avowed “good
friend” Joe Harry Pegg against a charge of conspiring
to import marijuana in 1988 and 1989.
In 1994, when the case was being heard on appeal,
the lawyer for one of Pegg’s co-conspirators,
Reggie Baxter, contacted the prosecuting attorney,
Cynthia Collazo, saying that Sharp might have had
“privileged conversations” that might
cause Sharp to have a conflict of interest in representing
“In unsworn statements, Baxter told Collazo
that shortly after he had been arrested in 1992 for
participating in the marijuana importation conspiracy
charged in the instant case, Sharp had met with him
and arranged for Pegg to pay a portion of Baxter's
legal fees,” the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
states. “Baxter then stated that Pegg had retained
attorney Dick Hibey to represent Baxter in the case.
Baxter further claimed that Sharp and Hibey helped
him concoct a false story to help exculpate Pegg.”
After Collazo expressed her concerns to Sharp, he
decided to remain on the case regardless. Though they
did not dispute his actions were criminal, the government
could not to pursue Sharp because they were unable
to prove the conflict adversely affected his counsel
of Pegg, a standard required by the Sixth Amendment.
“The district court found and the government
does not deny that Sharp labored under an actual conflict
of interest created by co-conspirator Baxter's allegations
that Sharp had engaged in unethical and criminal activity
in connection with his representation of Pegg,”
the transcript asserts.
And, as the White House refuses to confirm Sharp’s
identity, some speculate that he might also have been
the Jim Sharp who served as an attorney to Jeb Magruder,
a player in the Watergate scandal. It’s possible,
blogger notes, since James E. Sharp, born in 1940,
would have been 33 at the time.
If it is the same case, Sharp was accused of sneaky
dealing there, too: A recent book by Tony Lukas —
“Nightmare” — has Sharp telling
a Watergate defendant that he’ll let him confess
all first to get a plea deal, then subsequently scheduling
an appointment for his client, Jeb Magruder, to get
his deal first.
Joseph E. diGenova, a former U.S. attorney who worked
with Sharp as a young prosecutor, told the Washington
Post that Sharp is known for his litigation skills.
He’s “a brilliant tactician who is very
persuasive” he said, and “folksy like