We've heard of (and often tried) a lot of ways to ladder-climb in Hollywood, but "superstar tax-evasion defense attorney" is one we had pretty far down our list, just above "blogger." Still, that's not stopping Robert Bernhoft and Robert Barnes (or simply "the Bobs," as Portfolio refers to them in its November issue) from parlaying their momentum from last spring's Wesley Snipes trial into a kind of Malibu-based, Uncle Sam-swatting empire. "Wait," you ask, "didn't Wesley Snipes get three years in prison for misdemeanor tax evasion?" True, but these pinstriped paragons of justice have their own brazen, slightly lawyerly way of looking at it.After all, they argue, Snipes dropped the Bobs after they urged a "good-faith" offer to defray his tax debt on three misdemeanor charges — unprecedentedly dropped from the original six counts for his nonpayment from 1999 to 2005. The actor's rejection of the deal (at least until he showed up with $5 million in personal checks on the day of his sentencing) set the attorneys up to have their historic cake and eat it, too. And to hear Bernhoft and Barnes tell it, it's a delicious cake; if only there were government-stiffing action stars in their native Milwaukee to share it with. Next stop: Malibu, where they've already roped in Girls Gone Wild kingpin Joe Francis, who faces 10 years in prison if convicted next spring of felony tax evasion. And from there? The gutter is apparently the limit:
“If you’re an oligarch in Moscow, you need a driver and a bodyguard,” Barnes says. “If you’re a mogul in Hollywood, you need a consigliere. That’s what we will be.” [...] Barnes predicts that within 18 months, high-end California clients will make up half the firm’s business; in three years, he says, that portion will be two-thirds. Whereupon the firm’s epicenter will shift from a warehouse in Milwaukee to a deck in Malibu. “We want it to be like the patio in Boston Legal,” Barnes says, citing the TV series about stogie-savoring, nightcap-drinking litigators who often retire to a rooftop patio to mull their cases.Clearly these men are newcomers to town, but at least they have a specialty. And that's all a couple old whores need in the end, anyway. Welcome to Hollywood!
- Hollywood or Bust! [Portfolio]