Hal Uhrig, a prominent criminal defense attorney based in Orlando, Fl., was arrested on Monday and accused of witness tampering in a juvenile rape case. The Florida attorney also faces potential charges of perjury and victim harassment.
According to Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez, Hal Uhrig, 75, was arrested on the courthouse steps after it was discovered that he held a secret meeting with all parties involved in the juvenile rape case, and told them what to say and what to lie about.
Currently, Uhrig is representing an unidentified man accused of raping a 9-year-old girl in Orlando. Arranging a meeting with his client, the young victim, and the victim’s father, Uhrig told the father to write a letter to the state attorney saying that “the rape didn’t happen,” so that he could avoid being hit with a subpoena to testify in court.
In July, the victim’s father then wrote a letter to the state attorney, but reported Uhrig’s illegal actions instead. Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez told The Orlando Sentinel that the sex crimes division immediately started investigating Uhrig after receiving the complaint.
“He wanted to make sure this guy didn’t go to trial for rape,” Lopez said.
Wearing a recording device at their next meeting with Hal Uhrig, the victim’s father recorded audio of the Orlando attorney suggesting that he read a script that appeared to be his client’s defense of the juvenile rape charge. Uhrig was arrested shortly after.
A well-known criminal defender, Hal Uhrig briefly defended George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, before exiting the case early. Uhrig had defended Zimmerman, saying that he was part of a smear campaign. He stressed that Martin was “six inches taller than him” and broke Zimmerman’s nose.
“This is a guy who comes from a multi-racial family, multi-racial neighborhood, mentored young African-American children,” he said of Zimmerman. “He’s got friends that are African-American… there’s not a bone in his body that we’ve been able to see that would suggest any reason to [think he might] be racist. He was doing what he was asked to do by his community.”
Working for The Defense Group, he is still actively representing many clients in Osceola County, but Sheriff Marcos Lopez doesn’t know how many of his cases may have been tampered.
“Unless somebody else comes forward, we won’t know,” Lopez said. “In my experience from being in law enforcement, this probably wasn’t his first rodeo.”
Speaking with local Fox News reporters in Orlando, Hal Uhrig said that, “I showed up for a hearing this morning and before I could get to the elevator this morning, I was arrested.”
“An awful lot of chaos,” he said of the scene on the courthouse steps Monday morning. “We’re just going to go back to the boards like we always do. Sort out what happened. I’m not guilty of this.”
Hal Uhrig told reporters that he respected the Sheriff for doing his job, but that he had received bad information and would be “absolutely” fighting the charges in court.
The Sheriff’s information, however, is reported to have come from the victims themselves. The authorities also allege that they have a recording of Uhrig telling the victim’s father to turn off his cellphone and read a script off his computer screen.
Uhrig later claimed that they events “didn’t happen” and that he would be “happy to hear the recording.”
According to Click Orlando, a local Florida news outlet, a statue in Florida state law defines witness tampering as a third-degree felony, which can be elevated to a capital crime punishable by a life sentence.
“I’m a little surprised,” Sheriff Marcos Lopez said. “This has been an interesting case. I didn’t see this coming.”
“If you break the law, doesn’t matter who you are, y’know, we’re gonna arrest you. When anybody brings these types of allegations forward, we’re gonna investigate it,” Lopez declared at a news conference following Uhrig’s arrest. “No one is above the law.”