West Palm Beach attorney Scott Richardson, who was tapped Tuesday to represent GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s campaign manager on a battery charge, is no stranger to high-profile cases.
Throughout his career, which began in 1978 as a prosecutor in the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, the 62-year-old registered Democrat has represented priests accused of stealing from the collection plate, cops accused of killing suspects and politicians behaving badly.
Most recently, he was a member of the defense team for John Goodman when the Wellington polo mogul in 2014 – for a second time – was convicted of DUI manslaughter in the 2010 crash that killed engineering graduate Scott Wilson.
Those who have known the defense attorney, whose courtroom style is more professorial than dramatic, said they weren’t surprised Richardson, along with former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, were hired to represent Corey Lewandowski on a battery charge.
“He’s a great lawyer, an exceptional trial lawyer and he’s extremely ethical,” said defense attorney Michael Salnick, who shares his longtime friend’s love of the law, baseball, the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. “He’s an excellent choice to represent this man.”
Lewandowski turned himself in at the Jupiter police station Tuesday morning and was given a notice to appear on a misdemeanor battery charge in connection with allegations made by Michelle Fields, a former reporter for the online Breitbart News Network. At a March 8 press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, the 28-year-old Fields claims Lewandowski manhandled her when she tried to ask Trump a question — a claim Lewandowski denies.
Richardson, often working with Salnick and former Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer, built his career representing cops accused of crimes. One of his most headline-grabbing cases was in 1991 when he and Krischer represented West Palm Beach police officers Glen Thurlow and Stephen Rollins in the beating death of Robert Jewett.
Despite an autopsy that showed Jewett’s injuries included a broken neck, nine broken ribs, a bruised lung, a puncture in his heart and blood-filled testicles, jurors cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.
In 2005, he worked similar magic for Delray Beach police officer Darren Cogoni in the shooting death of 16-year-old Jerrod Miller at a school dance. Taking the calculated risk of allowing Cogoni to testify before the grand jury, the panel cleared the rookie officer of wrongdoing.
He also represented the Rev. John Skehan, a longtime priest at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach. Admitting he stole from the parish from 2001 to early 2006, the 81-year-old priest pleaded guilty to grand theft over $100,000 and received a 14-month prison sentence after police said he embezzled as much as $8 million from the church.
When Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe was elected in 2008, he sought to shore up the office by hiring Richardson. McAuliffe created a special position for Richardson as his chief counsel, earning praise from underlings. A big part of Richardson’s job was to train young attorneys – part of what McAuliffe called his desire to build a prosecutorial force of “national caliber.”
When McAuliffe unexpectedly quit the job before his term was up, Richardson returned to private practice.
Richardson, who is famously tight-lipped with the press, wasn’t immediately available for comment. Years ago, when asked why he counted so many police officers as clients, he explained that he enjoyed bursting misconceptions people may have about cases that received enormous attention in the press.
“I enjoy being able to present the facts within the rules governing the admissability of evidence and oftentimes overcoming initial misconceptions about the guilt or innocence of the officer,” he said.