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Defense Attorney Acquitted of Conspiracy Charges


April 1995

On March 7, San Francisco criminal defense attorney Patrick Hallinan was acquitted of obstruction of justice and drug conspiracy charges ("Federal Jury Acquitted Lawyer of Drug/Conspiracy Charges," BNA Criminal Practice Manual, Mar. 15, 1995, p. 125).

Prosecutors claimed that Hallinan had helped his client Ciro Mancuso smuggle huge shipments of marijuana into the United States and then launder the proceeds. Hallinan had defended Ciro Mancuso from 1974 to 1990 on various charges, but said that he thought Mancuso had stopped importing drugs in the 1970s. On the stand, Hallinan testified that he finally realized that Mancuso, who he called "the most exploitative psychopath" he had ever known, was not a real estate developer but a major drug importer.

Mancuso served fifteen months in prison for tax evasion and international conspiracy, but was released after assisting authorities in their case against Hallinan. Mancuso's smuggling operation began in the late 1960's when he teamed up with a group of college friends from Tahoe Paradise College.

At first, they only sold marijuana at their college, but soon the business grew. When authorities moved in on their growing operation at a small farm in Clay County, Kansas, they began importing marijuana from Mexico. Later Mancuso teamed up with a Thai exchange student to import more potent marijuana into San Francisco.

It took the government twelve years to build a case against Mancuso and his co-workers (The San Francisco Chronicle published a series on Ciro Mancuso in January. See Rob Haeseler, "Tahoe College Buddies Build Marijuana Empire," San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 17, 1995, p. A1; Rob Haeseler, "Smugglers Set Sail for Thai Pot Fields," San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 18, 1995, p. A1; Rob Haeseler, "After Two Decades, Drug Agents Close In," San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 19, 1995, p. A1).

Mancuso testified against Hallinan at the lawyer's trial. In exchange for his testimony, he was allowed to keep $5 million in proceeds from his marijuana importation operation.

Mancuso joined 12 other convicted felons to aid the prosecution in their case. Hallinan's attorneys called a number of character witnesses during the five-week trial, including Charles Breyer, the brother of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer; William Jeffress, chairman of the Criminal Justice Standards Committee of the American Bar Association; and San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessy.