John A. Shorter Jr., one of the city's well-known criminal defense lawyers, has been retained by D.C. mayoral aide Joseph P. Yeldell to represent him at his September bribery trial, according to court records.
Shorter would replace Curtis R. Smothers, who asked last Friday that he be allowed to withdraw from the case. Various sources said at the time that one significant reason for Smothers' request to quit the case was Yeldell's refusal to pay his attorneys.
U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell ruled Monday that Smothers could not withdraw from the case until Yeldell hired another attorney who could meet the Sept. 18 trial date. It was unclear yesterday whether Shorter might attempt to seek a delay of the trial or a postponement of the May 31 date when pretrial motions are due.
Yeldell and multimillionaire developer Dominic F. Antonelli Jr. are charged with bribery and conspiracy in connection with the allegedly corupt awarding of a city lease by Yeldell involving a building owned by Antonelli at 60 Florida Ave. NE. In return for his actions, Yeldell is alleged to have received a $33,000 loan at favorable rates from Antonelli in addition to other financial favors.
It took federal prosecutors 16 months to put together their complex case against Yeldell and Antonelli. The probe generated 30,000 documents that were recently turned over to Smothers for pretrial review.
Shorter, a graduate of the Georgetown University Law School, has practiced law since 1953 at 508 Fifth St. NW near the city's federal and local court complex.
He has a reputation among lawyers here of being a thorough legal technician whose meticulous examination of witnesses can extend trial time. He has represented alleged drug dealers in lengthy and complex wiretap cases and has practiced a wide area of criminal law.
Shorter, 50, also has a reputation of commanding high fees for his work. There was no indication yesterday what financial arrangements he may have worked out with Yeldell.
Shorter could not be reached for comment.