Jailed Diet-Drug Lawyers Appeal Bail Ruling

BOONE COUNTY, KY -- Hoping to get out of jail after nearly six months, suspended lawyers William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr. offered an unusual bail earlier this year: their share of several racehorses' future earnings, including Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition.

Those assets were valued at up to $85 million, but court records show the government rejected the deal, questioning whether that value would hold if the thoroughbreds had to be sold to pay restitution to the victims of Kentucky's fen-phen scandal.

"The government doesn't want a bunch of racehorses," U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman said in explaining why prosecutors nixed the deal in January, reports the C-J.

The proposal was revealed in appeals filed recently by Gallion, Cunningham and Melbourne Mills Jr., who are challenging the extraordinarily high bail Bertelsman set after the proposal was rejected -- $52 million for Gallion, $45 million for Cunningham and $5 million for Mills.

The three lawyers have been held in Boone County Jail since August pending trial May 12 on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for allegedly bilking more than 400 former clients out of $46 million from a 2001 settlement with the manufacturer of fen-phen, the diet drug linked to heart damage, the Courier-Journal reports.

The lawyers have pleaded not guilty, but a $42 million civil judgment already has been issued against them in a lawsuit in state court.

In unusually strong language, lawyers for Gallion and Cunningham charge in their appeals that Bertelsman has violated federal bail law by "pursuing a single-minded agenda of keeping the defendants incarcerated until sufficient assets can be found and secured to compensate the alleged victims," reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal

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