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Beyond Washington

"He's Jimmy Stewart with a brain," said John W. Moscow, the former New York state prosecutor who lost the Belnick case. "He appears to be nice and as far as I know, he is. . . . He cares a lot about what he is doing."

And that is the secret to his success.


"If you come into my office with a story that moves me, I'll take your case. My firm gives me that freedom," Reid H. Weingarten says. (Yoni Brook For The Washington Post)

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"A lot of criminal defendants want a lawyer who makes the prosecutors hate [them] and argues every point. It's much more effective to pick and chose your battles," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David B. Anders, who said his dealings with Weingarten on the Ebbers case were "probably the best relations I've ever had with an adversary. . . . I learned a lot just by being there."

In a New York white-collar legal scene dominated by Ivy League-educated competitive types, Weingarten comes across as a regular guy.

With his mop of curly hair and an unconscious habit of bobbing and weaving that brings to mind singer Stevie Wonder, Weingarten cuts an unusual figure in a buttoned-down court federal courtroom.

But his closing arguments and his cross-examinations -- the two most important tools for defense attorneys -- are persuasive and effective.

"Reid has that ability to understand really complex things and then bring them down to the level, not where he's talking down to you, but where he's talking with you," said James M. Cole, a former Justice Department colleague now at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP. "He's a person people like to be around."

Weingarten may read astrophysics on vacation and Che Guevara's letters while waiting for a verdict, but when he starts talking in the courtroom, it comes out in English.

"It's never this legal lawyer jargon talk. He's just a regular guy," said former Teamsters president Carey, adding that he followed Weingarten's advice to the letter for his 2001 perjury trial, including the recommendation that he not take the stand.

Other lawyers may feel the need to talk about every piece of evidence, but Weingarten has the confidence and skill to pick the key points that hit home, said former client Belnick, a lawyer himself.


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