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Boston Lawyer Charged In Drug Money Scheme Released On Bail01:34
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Boston criminal defense attorney Robert George, right, next to his attorney, Rosemary Scarpicchio (Deborah Becker/WBUR)
Boston criminal defense attorney Robert George, right, next to his attorney, Rosemary Scarpicchio (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

A prominent Boston criminal defense attorney has been released on $50,000 bond after he made an initial appearance on money laundering charges in federal court Wednesday.

Federal drug enforcement agents arrested Robert George at his Westwood home Wednesday and brought him, handcuffed, to court. It was quite a role reversal for this bombastic veteran defense attorney, known for taking on tough high-profile cases — sometimes representing police officers, sometimes organized crime figures.

George is also known for his advocacy for indigent defendants such as William Bennett, the man falsely accused in the 1988 Carol Stuart murder case, and Christohper McCowen, who was convicted of killing fashion writer Christa Worthington in Truro. George's attorney, Rosemary Scarpicchio, called the situation surreal.

"He was awoken from his house early this morning, handcuffed, brought to the federal courthouse and charged with a very serious crime," Scarpicchio said. "Of course it's a difficult day for him."

Wearing a navy blue polo shirt and jeans and smiling at those in the audience he knew, George was comfortable in court. At one point he whispered to the DEA agents who escorted him, "I know you're just doing your job."

But the 13-page complaint against him is nothing to smile about. It alleges that when George ran into one of his former clients in a shopping mall two years ago, he offered to help "clean" hundreds of thousands of dollars of the former client's drug money — for a fee. Unbeknownst to George, the former client was working as a government informant.

Attorney Rosemary Scarpicchio questions the use of a paid informant with a criminal background.

"I think it's outrageous that the government spends their money hiring someone who's already committed a crime to set up Mr. George in this case and not set up even a letter of reprimand for someone who knowingly uses information to put innocent people in jail," Scarpicchio said.

She also said George denies all the charges and she accused the government of going after criminal defense attorneys.

"I don't know what the government's motivation is here," Scarpicchio said. "I know that Mr. George is an attorney with 30 years of an impeccable record. He represents people charged with very serious crimes and I'm sure the government is not happy with the job that he does."

Several defense attorneys came into the courtroom Wednesday to embrace George and offer support. Randy Chapman, former president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, said the news of George's arrest quickly spread through the legal community.

"Shock and dismay would be the best way to describe the reaction of the defense lawyers I've spoken to," Chapman said. "You're always disappointed when you hear that one of your own is charged with an offense. I just hope that people will give him, like anyone else, the benefit of the doubt."

Scarpicchio and Brockton attorney Kevin Reddington will both represent George — who is due back in court next month. If convicted, George faces up to 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

This program aired on March 24, 2011.

Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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