Disbarred Lexington lawyer files appeal in diet-drug case

bortiz@herald-leader.comDecember 4, 2008 

William Gallion, a disbarred Lexington-area lawyer accused of cheating his clients out of millions in a diet-drug lawsuit settlement, is appealing a federal judge's refusal to reschedule his February trial.

Gallion's lawyer, O. Hale Almand, Jr., of Georgia, has repeatedly asked U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves to reschedule the trial because Almand has a trial scheduled for January in Georgia and another trial scheduled for March in Mississippi. Gallion and co-defendant Shirley Cunningham's trial would likely not end before the start of the trial in Mississippi.

Almand filed an appeal this week to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He is asking the court to fast track his appeal so he can get a quick ruling.

In a motion filed with the Sixth Circuit, Almand wrote that he told Reeves in July that he had three trials scheduled in Georgia and Mississippi. He has reminded Reeves repeatedly in other motions.

The January trial in Georgia, expected to last at least four weeks, leaves Almand with little time to prepare a new defense, the lawyer wrote.

Almand said he must prepare a new defense after the government added eight new charges of wire fraud related to a $200 million settlement in 2001 with American Home Products, the maker of the fen-phen diet drug thought to cause heart problems.

If Gallion were to hire a new lawyer who's unfamiliar with the case, he'd be at an even greater disadvantage, according to Almand.

Almand argues that Reeves refusal to reschedule the trial threatens Gallion's constitutional right to competent counsel.

Gallion and Cunningham are accused of taking $94 million that should have gone to 440 former clients. After an eight week trial in July, a jury acquitted a third defendant, lawyer Melbourne Mills Jr. Jurors deadlocked on Gallion and Cunningham, and a federal judge declared a mistrial.

The re-trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 2.

Reach Brandon Ortiz at (859) 231-1443 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1443.

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