McKinney Place •  3131 McKinney Avenue, Suite 800 • Dallas,  Texas 75204                  Phone 214.740.9955        Fax 214.740.9912

In the News

Texas CRIMInal defense & Federal Criminal Lawyers


By MICHAEL GRANBERRY Staff Writer

Published November 17, 2001 

A few days after Sept. 11, the phone rang in Jay Ethington’s office. 

Two men from India were being held as material witnesses in connection with terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and, the caller said, “need counsel immediately.”

Ayub Ali Khan, 34, and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, 32, were removed from a San Antonio-bound Amtrak train hours after jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 

Authorities said the men acted suspiciously and had in their possession box cutters, hair dye, and more than $5,600 in cash. 

So, the caller wanted to know, would Mr. Ethington come to their defense?

As it turned out, Mr. Ethington was involved in a trial. He just didn’t have the time to represent the men, who were transferred to New York City, where they remain in federal custody.

“But I would have,” he says. 

During the years, this 30-year veteran of the courtroom “game,” who cut his teeth as a prosecutor and then moved to the other side, has been involved in a slew of high-profile cases. 

His clients have included rock star David Crosby, professional athletes Tony Hill, Rafael Septien, and Roy Tarpley and, at the moment, a man involved in a nasty dispute with Roger Clinton, the half brother of former President Bill Clinton. 

“I don’t know anybody in North Texas who has represented the number of celebrities that I have,” says Mr. Ethington, 54, who often gives advice to a network of lawyers around the country whose job it is to defend celebrities. For instance, Abbe Lowell, now defending Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., is one of his closest colleagues. At the moment, the two are co-defending a Dallas businessman. 

In this day and age, celebrities in trouble — and the headlines indicate the number isn’t shrinking — have left Mr. Ethington “busier than I’ve ever been.” 

Whether it’s comedian Paula Poundstone or Mr. Condit or suspected terrorists, the task of defending celebrities has never been more prominent. 

No matter how heinous the accusation, every suspect is entitled to a fair trial, Mr. Ethington says, and he or she won’t get one without the best counsel possible.

Mr. Ethington, a native of Iowa raised in Illinois, graduated from law school at Southern Methodist University, then worked as a prosecutor for late district attorney Henry Wade from 1972 to 1976, before becoming a federal prosecutor from 1976 to 1982. Since then, he has worked exclusively as a defense lawyer.

“I’ve known Jay for many, many years,” says fellow defense attorney William F. “Bill” Alexander, who, as Mr. Wade’s assistant during the 1960s, helped to convict Jack Ruby for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. 

“We’ve hunted together, we’ve fished together, we’ve tried cases together,” says Mr. Alexander. “Jay puts a great deal of time and effort into working the cases. The best example of that was in defending [former Mavericks center] Roy Tarpley. He proved, by the Police Department’s own radio recordings, and by the map, that, if you believed the [prosecution’s] prime witness, Mr. Tarpley would have had to be driving over 300 mph over a six-block strip to do what they said he did. 

Faced with a charge of driving while intoxicated, Mr. Tarpley was acquitted.

Knowing prosecutors’ tendencies from having been one himself, he says celebrities in trouble run the risk of “the district attorney wanting to nail someone just to have a trophy on the wall” — which makes his job even tougher. 

As a defense lawyer, Mr. Ethington sees himself as abiding by the creed that “guilt or innocence is secondary to me. It’s the weight of the evidence that’s important.”

His most challenging client may have been rock star David Crosby, who, during his time with Mr. Ethington, was not yet clean and sober — to put it mildly. Much to his chagrin, he once discovered Mr. Crosby using cocaine during a break — in the middle of the singer’s trial. 

Mr. Crosby, later sentenced to five years in prison, had been arrested in his dressing room at Cardi’s nightclub in Dallas in April 1982. Police confiscated a bag containing cocaine and a .45-caliber Colt automatic pistol, according to court records. 

Mr. Ethington succeeded in having the conviction overturned, on the grounds that the search of the dressing room was unconstitutional. That resorted Mr. Crosby’s right to vote. And although he spent five months in the Texas prison system in 1986, he would not have kicked drugs without being incarcerated, the singer says.

Sometimes, Mr. Ethington’s practice takes a turn and causes him to represent people whose problems are caused by celebrities. His most recent foray, for instance, involves Richard Cayce, who contends that, on the morning of Aug. 10, 1998, he walked into a Dallas hotel and was escorted into a meeting with Roger Clinton and two business associates. Mr. Cayce, who is seeking immunity from prosecution, says the men wasted no time on small talk. Rather, they demanded $30,000 in cash, which he says he gave them. 

Mr. Cayce has told federal investigators that Mr. Clinton and his associates promised to provide him two diplomatic passports, which are normally issued exclusively to people working for the government and can speed passage through Customs. He said the three also assured him that arrangements were on track for a separate deal — a presidential pardon for an acquaintance facing a prison sentence.

Mr. Cayce’s assertions are a potentially important turn in a federal investigation of Roger Clinton that began after then President Clinton, his half-brother, granted dozens of pardons — including one for Roger Clinton on a 1985 drug conviction — on his last day as president. 

“So Roger Clinton goes on Larry King Live and says my client is an absolute lying piece of … ” Mr. Ethington says, shaking his head. “Oh, well. All in a day’s work. It’s never dull, and what I love is the unknown. After 30 years, you start thinking you’ve seen everything, and then two or three days go by, and a new pile of [expletive] hits you in the face. I can’t imagine any other work being this much fun.” 

A few days after Sept. 11, the phone rang in Jay Ethington’s office.

Two men from India were being held as material witnesses in connection with terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and, the caller said, “need counsel immediately.”

Ayub Ali Khan, 34, and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, 32, were removed from a San Antonio-bound Amtrak train hours after jetlines crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 

Authorities said the men acted suspiciously and had in their possession box cutters, hair dye, and more than $5,600 in cash.

So, the caller wanted to know, would Mr. Ethington come to their defense?

As it turned out, Mr. Ethington was involved in a trial. He just didn’t have the time to represent the men, who were transferred to New York City, where they remain in federal custody. 

“But I would have,” he says. 

During the years, this 30-year veteran of the courtroom “game,” who cut his teeth as a prosecutor and then moved to the other side, has been involved in a slew of high-profile cases. 

His clients have included rock star David Crosby, professional athletes Tony Hill, Rafael Septien, and Roy Tarpley and, at the moment, a man involved in a nasty dispute with Roger Clinton, the half brother of former President Bill Clinton. 

“I don’t know anybody in North Texas who has represented the number of celebrities that I have,” says Mr. Ethington, 54, who often gives advice to a network of lawyers around the country whose job it is to defend celebrities. For instance, Abbe Lowell, now defending Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., is one of his closest colleagues. At the moment, the two are co-defending a Dallas businessman. 

In this day and age, celebrities in trouble — and the headlines indicate the number isn’t shrinking — have left Mr. Ethington “busier than I’ve ever been.”

Whether it’s comedian Paula Poundstone or Mr. Condit or suspected terrorists, the task of defending celebrities has never been more prominent. 

No matter how heinous the accusation, every suspect is entitled to a fair trial, Mr. Ethington says, and he or she won’t get one without the best counsel possible.

Mr. Ethington, a native of Iowa raised in Illinois, graduated from law school at Southern Methodist University, then worked as a prosecutor for late district attorney Henry Wade from 1972 to 1976, before becoming a federal prosecutor from 1976 to 1982. Since then, he has worked exclusively as a defense lawyer. 

“I’ve known Jay for many, many years,” says fellow defense attorney William F. “Bill” Alexander, who, as Mr. Wade’s assistant during the 1960s, helped to convict Jack Ruby for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.

 “We’ve hunted together, we’ve fished together, we’ve tried cases together,” says Mr. Alexander. “Jay puts a great deal of time and effort into working the cases. The best example of that was in defending [former Mavericks center] Roy Tarpley. He proved, by the Police Department’s own radio recordings, and by the map, that, if you believed the [prosecution’s] prime witness, Mr. Tarpley would have had to be driving over 300 mph over a six-block strip to do what they said he did.

Faced with a charge of driving while intoxicated, Mr. Tarpley was acquitted.

Knowing prosecutors’ tendencies from having been one himself, he says celebrities in trouble run the risk of “the district attorney wanting to nail someone just to have a trophy on the wall” — which makes his job even tougher. 

As a defense lawyer, Mr. Ethington sees himself as abiding by the creed that “guilt or innocence is secondary to me. It’s the weight of the evidence that’s important.”

His most challenging client may have been rock star David Crosby, who, during his time with Mr. Ethington, was not yet clean and sober — to put it mildly. Much to his chagrin, he once discovered Mr. Crosby using cocaine during a break — in the middle of the singer’s trial. 

Mr. Crosby, later sentenced to five years in prison, had been arrested in his dressing room at Cardi’s nightclub in Dallas in April 1982. Police confiscated a bag containing cocaine and a .45-caliber Colt automatic pistol, according to court records. 

Mr. Ethington succeeded in having the conviction overturned, on the grounds that the search of the dressing room was unconstitutional. That resorted Mr. Crosby’s right to vote. And although he spent five months in the Texas prison system in 1986, he would not have kicked drugs without being incarcerated, the singer says.

 Sometimes, Mr. Ethington’s practice takes a turn and causes him to represent people whose problems are caused by celebrities. His most recent foray, for instance, involves Richard Cayce, who contends that, on the morning of Aug. 10, 1998, he walked into a Dallas hotel and was escorted into a meeting with Roger Clinton and two business associates. Mr. Cayce, who is seeking immunity from prosecution, says the men wasted no time on small talk. Rather, they demanded $30,000 in cash, which he says he gave them. 

Mr. Cayce has told federal investigators that Mr. Clinton and his associates promised to provide him two diplomatic passports, which are normally issued exclusively to people working for the government and can speed passage through Customs. He said the three also assured him that arrangements were on track for a separate deal — a presidential pardon for an acquaintance facing a prison sentence. 

Mr. Cayce’s assertions are a potentially important turn in a federal investigation of Roger Clinton that began after then President Clinton, his half-brother, granted dozens of pardons — including one for Roger Clinton on a 1985 drug conviction — on his last day as president.

“So Roger Clinton goes on Larry King Live and says my client is an absolute lying piece of … ” Mr. Ethington says, shaking his head. “Oh, well. All in a day’s work. It’s never dull, and what I love is the unknown. After 30 years, you start thinking you’ve seen everything, and then two or three days go by, and a new pile of [expletive] hits you in the face. I can’t imagine any other work being this much fun.”

More Articles:

Jay Ethington says all suspects, even celebrities, should receive a fair trial...

8 Richardson lab workers acquitted of fraud...

Dallas defense lawyer's client list has star quality...

Former Enron execs, beware: David Crosby's on your case...

Jury's out: Sports heroes are hard to fault...

Athletes get benefit of the doubt...Ex-Steelers star player given probation...

Rich Pardon Reportedly Followed Pledge to Charity of Former Wife...

U.S. Lime accuses VP of embezzling...

Ex-Triad exec is indicted...

At The Law Firm of Jay Ethington we represent clients statewide throughout Texas and nationally in federal court, with a focus on the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region of Texas, including the communities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Duncanville, DeSoto, Grand Prairie, Arlington, Euless, Irving, Bedford, Grapevine, Carrollton, Richardson, Garland and Mesquite; and other locations in Dallas County, Collin County, Tarrant County, Denton County, Kaufman County and Ellis County.

© 2009 by The Law Firm of Jay Ethington All rights reserved.