Joe Cavallo, Haidl 3 Lawyer and Briber: I'm Not Guilty of $20 Million Saudi Sheik Extortion Plot
See the update on Page 2 with Joe Cavallo and the German national pleading not guilty at arraignment and what the OC lawyer's lawyer John Barnett said outside court.
ORIGINAL POST, JULY 15, 6:07 A.M.: The first time I read about lawyer Joe Cavallo was years ago, during my colleague R. Scott Moxley's award-winning coverage of "The Haidl 3," the nickname we gave the Orange County assistant sheriff's son and two friends who were ultimately convicted of a disgusting rape and sexual acts to a passed-out teen girl Cavallo and others on the defense team portrayed as a willing slut.
Fast forward a few years and ol' Mox was reporting on Cavallo being convicted of felony "capping," that is, illegally paying bail bond agents to steer clients to his firm. Orange County Superior Court Judge Carla Singer did not send Cavallo to prison but instead gave him six months of home detention, three years of probation and an $18,000 fine.
After serving his probation without incident, the man Moxley has described as "one of Orange County's most well-connected criminal defense lawyers"--his pals have included then-Sheriff Mike Carona and then-assistant sheriffs George Jaramillo and Don Haidl--went back before Singer to get his capping guilty plea dismissed. The judge complied, reducing all charges to misdemeanors and sealing Cavallo's file from future public access.
"In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar's investigation and he presented witnesses who testified to his good character," is how the state bar's website describes Cavallo's winning move.
And so, Cavallo, whose license to practice law had been suspended in California in 2007 and 2009, lived to lawyer another day ... to what would become the chagrin of one of the wealthiest men in Saudi Arabia.
Cavallo, fellow lawyer (and fellow 58-year-old) Emanuel Karl Hudson and German national Leyla Ors, 33, were charged Monday with conspiring and attempting to extort $20 million from Sheikh Monsur Albalwi, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office (LADA).
Ors told police she had been raped and tortured by Thamer Albalwi, the sheik's 23-year-old son, and based on her allegations, a physical exam and visible injuries like a cigarette burn on her arm, the junior Albalwi was charged March 13 with four counts of sexual assault.
Hudson is accused of calling Albalwi's father in June and saying for $15 million Ors would not testify and "the case would be over." Cavallo allegedly called the sheik the same day and demanded that $20 million be deposited in an account set up in Lucerne, Switzerland.
The charges against Thamer Albalwi, who had already been released in lieu of $3 million bail, were dismissed Friday. More than dismissed, according to his attorneys, who issued a statement saying Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Dabney found "factual innocence" in the case.
Albalwi, who provided telephone and credit card records, emails, text messages and surveillance video to the police to prove that Ors was lying, says in a statement released by his law firm Brown White & Newhouse LLP: "I prayed that the truth would come out and, thanks to the American justice system, it did."
Prosecutors wasted no time filing new charges: Cavallo, Hudson and Ors face one felony count each of attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to receive a bribe and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Ors is also charged with offering to receive a bribe by a witness.
By the way, she thought she was returning to the States last week to testify against Albalwi. Instead, she was arrested and jailed. Cavallo and Hudson made their $50,000 bails. (Prompting the question: Was Cavallo referred to himself by the bail bondsman?)
At her arraignment Monday, Ors requested a German interpreter and because none were available her hearing was moved to today, when Cavallo is also to be arraigned in downtown LA. Hudson has arraignment scheduled July 31.
If convicted, each could get up to four years behind bars--although in the case of one of Orange County's most well-connected criminal defense lawyers, who knows what kind of leniency he can ultimately win from a local legal system that has embraced him so warmly over the years?