Steven H. Sadow, former President Donald J. Trump’s lead attorney in his criminal case in Georgia, has been praised by Atlanta rapper T.I. (one of Mr. Sadow’s former clients) as “probably the best criminal defense attorney in his time.” “a man with “a slight touch of genius.”
If so, much of that genius has remained repressed since Trump’s impeachment in Georgia over the summer. Sadow, a heavyweight in the Atlanta legal world who specializes in representing what he calls “high-profile individuals,” has so far kept a low profile in the state election interference case, taking great advantage of the briefings. from other lawyers representing Trump’s colleagues. -accused.
Sadow has rarely spoken publicly about the case. And at several related court hearings, he appeared alone, in his trademark cowboy boots, watching the proceedings from the courtroom gallery.
His minimalist approach stands in stark contrast to other, more mercurial lawyers Trump has hired around the country to deal with his legal problems. He has also brought some dramatic tension to the Georgia case. He’s like a featured soloist in a band that has yet to really play.
The quiet period may be coming to an end soon. This week, Sadow filed a motion arguing that before any trial, Georgia courts should weigh whether the 13 felony charges against Trump should be dismissed because his claims about voter fraud after he lost the 2020 election were protected by the First. Amendment.
And on Friday, Sadow is expected to make his first major court appearance in the case, to argue that Trump should be granted access to evidence gathered by federal prosecutors in his separate election interference case in Washington.
The hearing could provide early indications of Sadow’s long-term strategy and how he might incorporate lessons learned from decades of defending a colorful list of clients, including rappers and the occasional tabloid semi-celebrity.
“This is an enormously creative guy who will craft a defense based on all the tools at his disposal,” said Arthur W. Leach, a former assistant U.S. attorney who faced Sadow.
Like Trump’s lawyers in his other pending criminal cases, Sadow is trying not only to secure his client’s exoneration, but also to delay it. Prosecutors have proposed an August start date for the trial in Georgia, but Trump would likely prefer that it be postponed beyond next fall’s presidential election, in which he is a candidate.
The indictment accuses the former president and 14 allies of conspiring to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss in Georgia; Four other defendants pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Sadow, 69, declined an interview request. He had previously made it known that he is not a Trump supporter. He took over as Trump’s top lawyer on the day of the former president’s voluntary surrender in August, replacing Drew Findling, known as the billion-dollar lawyer for his work defending prominent hip-hop artists.
Mr. Sadow’s friends say he most likely took the case for the challenge, as well as the money. Findling’s company received at least $816,000 for about a year of work, according to public records.
Legal experts say Mr. Sadow’s low-key approach is a calculated strategy.
He’s probably been watching the moves of other defendants’ attorneys to see what approaches work best with Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is relatively new to the court. At times, Sadow has joked with reporters that there was no reason for him to write his own writing when other lawyers who happen to be great writers have already done good work.
Sadow may be trying not to put anything in writing that could inadvertently help Jack Smith, the prosecutor in the separate federal election interference case against Trump, whose trial is scheduled in Washington in March.
“I don’t think anyone on Trump’s legal team in Georgia wants to do anything that would remotely rock the boat in D.C.,” said Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University.
In courtrooms in Atlanta and elsewhere, Mr. Sadow has demonstrated an aptitude for aggressive cross-examination and quick thinking.
Christian Fletcher, a Sadow client who was acquitted in a major health care fraud case in March, said Sadow’s real strength was his feeling for people and how juries think. “It’s like it downloads who you are as a person,” he said, “and what makes you tick.”
In an online interview with his client TI, the rapper, Sadow said he did his own legal research because “I don’t think anyone can do it better than me.” He also said that he had been called to the profession to curb the excesses of government power.
“People need to be taken care of and protected,” he told the artist. “They have to be protected from the government,” because, she said, the government doesn’t care about most people.
In addition to TI, which was pleased with the plea deal and one-year prison sentence Sadow helped him secure when he faced a federal weapons charge, he has represented rappers Gunna and Rick Ross, who occasionally They mention Mr. Sadow in their lyrics.
“Indictment coming put Sadow on the case,” he rapped in his 2019 song “Turnpike Ike.”
In 2000, Sadow won the acquittal of Joseph Sweeting, accused of stabbing two men to death after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. The case attracted national attention because Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens football star, had also been charged; Mr. Lewis reached a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Mr. Sadow also represented Steven E. Kaplan, the owner of a famous Atlanta strip club called the Gold Club, who was targeted by federal prosecutors who claimed he had mafia connections and enabled prostitution. Sadow called it a “very good deal” when Kaplan, who was facing decades in prison, pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in 2001 and received a 16-month sentence and a $5 million fine.
It’s hard to say what those successes will add to Trump’s case. Sadow faces the arduous task of winning over a jury in Fulton County, where President Biden won 73 percent of the vote in 2020. Several legal experts following the case expect Sadow to soon file a motion arguing that Trump should be immune from Georgia charges because he was the president. Trump’s lawyers in the Washington case have filed a similar motion that many experts say is unlikely to succeed.
Mr. Sadow grew up in Ohio and moved to Atlanta in the 1970s to attend Emory Law School. Even back then, said Martin Salzman, a lawyer and former classmate, he excelled at coming up with alternative theories for a case.
“I told him, ‘Think like a criminal; that’s why he likes criminal law,’” Salzman recalled, laughing. “He really puts forward theories that most people just don’t, to raise reasonable doubt.”