By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The worst thing an attorney in a high-profile case can do is to just look into the camera and say “no comment” when asked a question by the media.
Speakers agreed on this point at the Brooklyn Bar Association’s CLE program on “The Media and The Attorney: Handling a High Profile Criminal Case” on June 26.
Panelists at the forum included Kings County Supreme Court Justice Allan Marrus; Sarah Wallace, veteran ABC television news reporter; and attorneys Benjamin Brafman, George Farkas and Michael Farkas.
The three attorneys present have all seen their share of high-profile cases. Brafman, for example, has represented clients ranging from Michael Jackson to Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
George Farkas is currently representing Nechemya Weberman, a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community who is being charged sexual assault on an underage girl. Michael Farkas, his son, represented Smith Barney in hundreds of arbitration claims filed by the firm’s customers.
George Farkas said there are certain guidelines attorneys should follow when making comments to the press: Keep them brief and precise; don’t commit to a theory of a case because “you don’t know where a case is going at the beginning of a case,” and even if you have little to say, be courteous to the media.
As an example of an unprofessional comment an attorney has made to the press, Farkas pointed to Joe Amendola, attorney for Jerry Sandusky, who said, “I’ll die of a heart attack if he’s [Sandusky] acquitted.”
Farkas also criticized Amendola’s statement that “the prosecution was very well-prepared and professional.” In the event that there is an appeal and you have to face the prosecution again, that may send the wrong message.
Michael Farkas, speaking to the Eagle, quoted Wallace, who said, “The media will report the story anyway, even if you don’t want them to, so you might as well give them something.”
The forum, he added, was extremely valuable because “you don’t get public relations expertise in law school. It taught what to say, what not to say, how to protect your interests and not prejudice your case.”
He also said that he has learned to distinguish between those media people who are fair and friendly and those who aren’t. “There are about six journalists who I keep close to me and give a break with information. To the others, I send out a statement,” he said.
About 30 to 40 people came to the forum, which was held at the Brooklyn Bar Association headquarters at 123 Remsen St.