High Profile Drug Case Has Attorneys Posturing

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's a high profile federal drug case that's creating drama in the courtroom and plenty of public interest.

The case of two Biloxi doctors accused of illegally distributing prescription narcotics hasn't gone to trial yet. But the legal maneuvering and public relations posturing is well underway.

You've seen the video before and will see it again, federal agents raiding Dr. Thomas Trieu's medical clinic and making arrests. But defense attorneys would prefer a far different image.

Michael Crosby devotes a portion of his web site to the defense of Dr. Victoria Van. It includes flattering pictures of Dr. Van with her family and her patients.

"She struggled to get here from Vietnam. She made a life. She ran from Communism. She's board certified. She made a name for herself. Her father is in charge of the biggest Christian ministry for the Vietnamese community in California," said attorney Crosby, outside the courthouse on Tuesday.

A Gulfport attorney says Crosby is doing the natural thing as a defense attorney: advocating for his client.

"They have to show their client is not this vilified person that has been painted in the news media," said attorney Tim Holleman.

He says attorneys are obligated to be advocates for their clients both in the courtroom and before the court of public opinion.

"Our rules of professional conduct recognize that a lawyer has a duty to advocate for his client, including balancing in the news media. And I don't think that's anything more than that, trying to balance the picture that's being painted," says Holleman.

Lawyers can criticize and praise the opposition. Here's defense attorney David Morrison following last week's hearing.

"And here they are. They're eating crow today. They said it and where's the beef?" said Morrison, commenting about the government's case.

He then added, "How long is the government going to keep these people away from their kids?"

That same attorney was kinder to the government just six days later.

"The government's efforts are absolutely in good faith," said Morrison on Tuesday, following the bond hearing, "By releasing those three, it's a clear indication of the integrity the U.S. Attorney's office is demonstrating today," he added.

Eventually a jury seated in the eighth floor courtroom will deliver a verdict in this case. That's also where the judge will hear and rule on motions from both sides.

Until then, this case will be discussed outside the courthouse in conversation, including reporters questioning attorneys and those lawyers trying their best to influence public perception.

That posturing for public opinion will likely increase as the trial date approaches.

"We need to wait until the facts are developed at the trial before we convict them in the news media. And that is a very difficult balance," said Holleman.

The WLOX News coverage of the case includes interviews outside the courthouse. So far, the defense attorneys have been willing to talk on camera. The prosecution has done its talking in the courtroom only.