Local attorneys go national
“They don’t tell you how to dress, but they tell you that dark blues and blacks and colorful ties stand well. So I bought a red tie,” he says.The networks also provide some make up, which Lugert is eager to wear to control shine caused by the heat of the cameras.While “rooms for rent” signs abound in Eagle, Lugert and other local attorneys are also reaping the benefits of the unexpected, non-ski-related fame that has befallen Eagle County.Lugert, 51, of Eagle – for 22 years a state and federal prosecutor – left the Eagle County D.A.’s Office last year. He says he’s been approached by two of the networks and two cable channels to cover the case.”I’m in discussions to cover the motions hearings and the possible trial,” Lugert says. “I’ve done public interviews before, but this is pretty intense. Now, I’m doing half a dozen interviews a day – mostly with CNN, Channel 4, MSNBC, Fox News and Court TV.”A change of paceDefense attorney Jim Fahrenholtz has been hired by an ABC affiliate in Los Angeles to do legal analysis on Bryant’s case. Bryant is accused of raping a 19-year-old Eagle woman in the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, June 30.Since the case started, several network and cable channels have had Fahrenholtz as a guest speaker analyzing the latest on the case. He’s been on “Good Morning America”, “Geraldo”, Fox, ESPN and Court TV.”I like doing legal commentary,” Fahrenholtz says. “It’s different from what I do everyday.”For Fahrenholtz, 45, of Eagle, who’s been an attorney in the valley for 18 years and also worked in D.A.’s Office, life in the Eagle County Justice Center is usually uneventful . He mostly represents people in drunk driving, theft, burglary and domestic violence cases.”On TV, I talk about court procedures,” he says. “I’m familiar with how Colorado treats these sexual assault cases.”Lugert, who also has been interviewed by The Denver Post, USAToday and the Chicago Sun Times, says in the next months he expects to provide more in-depth legal commentary for the motions hearings and the jury trial, which he anticipates will occur next spring.”Criminal cases have a priority over civil cases and by state law, sexual assault cases have a priority over all other crimes,” says Lugert, who predicts a trial in March or April if the case moves forward.Informing the publicWhile Lugert admits the media coverage of the case can occasionally be overzealous, he says it serves the overriding interest of providing information on how the taxpayers’ courtrooms are being run.”Doing legal commentary is fun because you learn the media’s interest to expose what the government’s … attorneys are doing in the court rooms,” Lugert says.When he is on TV, Lugert says he tries not to comment on the headline facts of the Bryant case, but rather provide understanding on the underlying legal procedures that lead to what happens in the courtroom.”So the public can be educated in how the legal proceedings take place,” Lugert adds. “This is important because it will give the people in our community an understanding of how our system works long after this case is gone.”For Fahrenholtz, who gets about one-third of the sexual assault cases in Eagle County, nothing unpredictable has happened in the Bryant case.”Other than he is a celebrity,” he says. “The judge’s rulings so far, have been what we expected.”Lugert and Fahrenholtz decline to comment on what they’ll be paid for their comments on TV. “But I can tell you one thing, if I’d had a chance to do it full time, I’d do it,” Fahrenholtz says.Lugert says the media invasion of Eagle, which has 4,000 residents, comes “in dramatic spurts and then it dies away.””It takes three spins of a traffic light instead of one to get through an intersection and the lines in the deli and coffee shops get longer,” Lugert says.”But to me,” he adds, “this is an educational project that can last long after this specific criminal case becomes just a footnote in the history of the Vail Valley.”Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at email@example.com.