SPOKANE, Wash. - Prosecutors call it "Cadillac prices for a Chevrolet case," saying attorneys for Gail Gerlach greatly overcharged taxpayers for the cost of his defense with an excessive and extravagant bill.
State law allows for Gerlach, found not guilty in the shooting death of car thief Brendon Kaluza-Graham, to be reimbursed for his legal costs, however his attorneys are being accused of padding their bill to more than $300,000.
You can't argue with their results. Gerlach's defense team got their client acquitted in near record time and spared him potentially more than a decade behind bars. Now the question before the court is just how many hours attorneys spent preparing Gerlach's case and did they really need three lawyers to do it?
"No explanation is needed as to exactly why Mr. Gerlach needed three attorneys to represent him. He requested this. He was facing a homicide charge and he wanted to have every angle of this covered as much as possible because of the severity of the charge," defense attorney Richard Lee said.
The trial judge must also decided if Lee's $300 an hour charge is a fair market value especially in light of the fact Lee brought in two extra attorneys to help him with things like jury selection in the case.
"Mr. Lee should have had to bring in anybody to do those things for him if he wants to bill $300 an hour … these are things he ought to know how to do himself," Deputy Prosecutor Deric Martin said.
It's the state's position Lee and his co-counsel are soaking taxpayers for a case that really wasn't that complex and taking advantage of a law that is intended to protect citizens from going bankrupt while defending themselves in court.
"They spent more hours on this case in their closing arguments than the entire case should have taken in terms of litigation. They duplicated each others efforts repeatedly, they both attended numerous things that one attorney could have attended on his own," Martin said.
The judge has said she will now issue her decision in writing but it's clear from the questions she was asking in court Friday she is dubious about Gerlach's legal costs including more that $40,000 for a pair of expert witnesses that testified on Gerlach's behalf.