Business Litigators Score Victory in Criminal Case

WHITE COLLAR: Name partners successfully defend former Ralphs executive. Mike Amir hesitated before defending a former Ralphs executive under federal indictment for allegedly using fake Social Security numbers to hire locked-out workers during the supermarket strike of five years ago.

The indicted executive, Scott Drew, was a friend’s brother. But Amir, a name partner at Century City boutique Doll Amir & Eley LLP, specialized in business litigation and had no experience with white-collar crime.

“I said I would be more than happy to talk to him and refer him to someone,” Amir said. But he and fellow partner Greg Doll eventually decided to take the case. That was in October 2008.

It was the right move: A federal jury in Los Angeles acquitted Drew and two other former executives June 22 of fraud and conspiracy. (The other two were represented by different counsel.)

An additional two former executives previously pleaded guilty in the case and are awaiting sentencing. Amir said the five hours he spent waiting for the jury deliberation were tense. “I was hoping and praying that they would come out with a decent verdict. We were nervous.”

After a year of preparation, the trial lasted less than three weeks. Amir and Doll enlisted a former federal prosecutor as a consultant, and staged a mock trial in front of 40 people playing jurors.

The whole process was a leaning experience.

“I had to lock myself in and study all of the criminal rules of the procedure, which are totally different than the civil rules of procedures,” Amir said. With one victory to their names, do Amir and Doll plan to tackle more white-collar criminal defense cases?

“Yes, I got the bug I think,” Amir said.