Just hours before Donald J. Trump was set to be booked on racketeering charges at Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, he shook up his legal team in Georgia, adding Steven H. Sadow, a veteran criminal defense lawyer who has handled a number of high-profile cases.
Mr. Sadow filed a document with the court on Thursday stating that he was now “lead counsel of record for Donald John Trump.”
In Atlanta legal circles, Mr. Sadow (pronounced say-dow) is widely seen as one of the city’s most talented defense lawyers. He is no stranger to celebrity clients, having defended rappers like T.I. and Rick Ross, as well as the singer Usher and the lawyer Howard K. Stern.
Mr. Sadow recently defended the rapper Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, in a high-profile case against Young Slime Life, or YSL, an Atlanta hip-hop collective.
Mr. Kitchens was charged by the Fulton County district attorney’s office with conspiracy to violate the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. In December, Mr. Kitchens entered a guilty plea to the racketeering charge, and he was released after one year of his five-year sentence was commuted to time served and the rest of his sentence was suspended.
In 2000, Mr. Sadow obtained an acquittal for Joseph Sweeting, who had been charged along with another man with murder and assault in the stabbing deaths of two men after a Super Bowl party. The case became famous because the All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis was also charged but reached a plea deal with prosecutors.
More than two decades ago, Mr. Sadow was a fixture in news reports about a scandal involving an Atlanta strip club called the Gold Club. At the time, federal prosecutors said that it had ties to the Gambino crime family of New York and charged 15 people connected with the club with a variety of racketeering, money laundering and prostitution charges.
Mr. Sadow defended the club’s owner, Steven E. Kaplan, against RICO conspiracy charges. Mr. Kaplan ended up entering a guilty plea to a racketeering charge, an outcome Mr. Sadow called “a very good deal for all concerned.” In 2002, Mr. Kaplan was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison.
In 2021, Mr. Sadow told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that RICO was “overused” by Georgia prosecutors, adding that “it’s been overused for quite a long time.”
In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Sadow said that Mr. Trump “should never have been indicted,” adding that “he is innocent of all the charges brought against him.”
“Prosecutions intended to advance or serve the ambitions and careers of political opponents of the president have no place in our justice system,” Mr. Sadow said.
Mr. Sadow had previously expressed misgivings about Mr. Trump. During one exchange on Twitter in 2017, Mr. Sadow said that he was “not a DT supporter.”
Mr. Sadow grew up in Trotwood, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, according to an interview he did in 2015 with Georgia Super Lawyers magazine. In the interview, he said that he had wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer ever since he was 11 years old, when he watched the television show “The Defenders.”
“I turned to my father and said, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to be a criminal defense lawyer,’” he told the magazine.
Richard Fausset, Danny Hakim and Maggie Habermancontributed reporting.
Anna Betts is a reporter for the National desk and a member of the 2023-2024 New York Times Fellowship class. More about Anna Betts
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