The Hammer Gets Chiseled

Texas Republican Tom DeLay has raised buckets of cash from GOP loyalists to fight conspiracy and money laundering charges, collecting more than $300,000 in donations to his defense fund in the third quarter of this year alone. But sources familiar with Dick DeGuerin, the former majority leader’s criminal attorney, say DeLay will have to do a lot better than that if he hopes to cover his legal tab.

Although estimates of DeGuerin’s proposed fee vary wildly, one thing everyone agrees on is that it’s sure to balloon quickly–up to a $5 million before the case is over, according to one Texas lawyer. But if that seems unreasonable, just ask multimillionaire real estate heir Robert Durst, DeGuerin’s last high-profile client.

According to a source close that case, in which DeGuerin successfully shielded Durst from a murder rap in 2003 despite Durst’s admission that he chopped up his elderly neighbor’s body after shooting him in “self-defense” (the case was hampered by the cops’ inability to locate the victim’s head), the lawyer was as canny with his client’s wallet as he was with the jury.

DeGuerin first signed onto the case for a $500,000 retainer, we hear, but then told Durst on the eve of his trial that “if he didn’t come up with another huge chunk of change he was going to have to get himself another lawyer,” says the source. Durst paid and then ponied up even more post-acquittal, we’re told. DeGuerin’s office confirmed that his total fee ended up at over a million bucks.

A lifelong Democrat, DeGuerin, who first gained notoriety defending Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh before he was killed along with 74 followers in a showdown with the ATF, did not return calls for comment. Messages left with DeLay’s office were not returned, and e-mails to the disgraced pol’s defense fund went unanswered.

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