Sure, the young lawyer sees the smiling face on his television screen and says to himself, “that’s what I want to be when I grow up.” Well, not so fast. It’s not easy to be a celebrity lawyer. It’s not easy being Mickey Sherman.
From the AP:
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A celebrity attorney who represented Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel in his murder trial has agreed to plead guilty to failing to pay almost $400,000 in taxes.
Michael Sherman, who has frequently appeared on national television shows as a legal analyst, was scheduled to plead guilty Wednesday in Bridgeport to two misdemeanor counts of willful failure to pay federal income taxes.
And now Larry King hangs up his suspenders. What’s Mickey to do? He had a real shot to get the gig, provided Ryan Seacrest blew the audition.
How is it possible that Mickey could have racked up such a big number in unpaid taxes? There are two theories. Theory number one comes from the Skakel case:
Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted in 2002 in the 1975 fatal beating of his neighbor in Greenwich when they were both 15. A defense lawyer says Skakel will file an appeal challenging Sherman’s effectiveness.
Skakel’s current attorney, Hope Seeley, has said Sherman’s financial difficulties resulted in a lack of funds set aside to investigate the case before the 2002 trial. Sherman has denied that.
In other words, Mickey took the fee from Skakel that was to cover him and the expenses incurred in defending the case, and didn’t quite put it to its highest and best use. For Skakel, at least.
Then there’s the lifestyle theory:
Sherman’s ex-wife accused him last year of failing to pay $16,000 monthly alimony, instead leading a high life that included luxury vacations, expensive hotels and restaurants, costly entertainment, dues at exclusive country clubs and expensive clothing. He promised in October to pay $241,000 to her by 2012.
Don’t feel badly for Mickey’s ex-wife. She doesn’t need to eat much until 2012 anyway. And what’s Mickey’s position?
Asked why Sherman didn’t pay the taxes, [Sherman’s attorney William Dow III] said, “He has substantial personal and family obligations and was focusing on his practice.”
Not quite sure what that has to do with anything. You earn income, you pay taxes on it. Taxes pretty much fall into the “substantial obligations” category too, and focusing on his law practice didn’t seem to do much for his partner.
In 2007, Sherman’s law firm partner, Joseph Richichi, was sentenced to 16 months in prison for failing to pay more than $600,000 in taxes.
Richichi blamed his own failing health and Sherman — saying Sherman incurred more than $1.1 million in federal tax liens on the property they owned, bounced checks and failed to pay back $25,000 Richichi loaned him to build a house.
Sounds like a basic accounting error, right? He failed to account for all the money he owed.
My purpose in mentioning this isn’t to beat up on Mickey. He’s got enough problems. It’s to point out that it’s not just washed up NFL stars who end up deep in debt and trouble from financial mismanagement. Lawyers are not endowed with magic powers that prevent them from doing something stupid and getting in trouble for it. Especially when they seek out the high profile: Ask for attention and there’s a good chance you will get it, just not from the people you want.
Being a celebrity can be fun for a few minutes, but it comes at a price. Mickey has to pay the price now. If it gets him the Larry King gig, it may be worth it. Otherwise, probably not.