Lawyers for Graham ask to be dropped from case

Updated: November 12, 2007, 9:59 PM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

The next twist in the saga of Trevor Graham, the sprint coach to Olympic track and field medalists, could come as early as Tuesday when a federal judge in San Francisco is expected to consider a last-minute request from Graham's two attorneys to withdraw from the case.

Neither Gail Shifman of San Francisco nor Joseph Zeszotarski, a Raleigh, N.C.-based attorney who has a long association with the prominent coach, returned phone calls seeking comment, but court documents indicate Graham, who lives in Raleigh, might be struggling financially. According to a document filed last week, the U.S. Marshall is paying for Graham's transportation to San Francisco for the Tuesday hearing because "the Court is satisfied that the defendant is financially unable to pay the costs associated with traveling" for court appearances.

Trevor Graham
AP Photo/The News & Observer, Scott LewisTrevor Graham might be traveling to a San Francisco court appearance on the government's dollar.
Tuesday's conference had been scheduled before Judge Susan Ilston as part of routine legal proceedings in advance of a Nov. 23 juror trial. Shifman and Zeszotarski, however, filed notice last Thursday requesting that their motion to withdraw be heard at the conference.

Graham was indicted a year ago on charges of lying to federal agents during the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative drug scandal. Ironically, the operator of the Raleigh, N.C.-based Sprint Capitol group helped trigger the BALCO probe in 2003 by sending a syringe of undetectable steroids to sports anti-doping authorities.

The probe has led to five criminal convictions and suspensions of more than a dozen athletes. Unless a plea deal is reached, though, Graham would be the first to go to trial. Court filings indicate federal prosecutors are prepared to call a number of his former athletes as possible witnesses, including Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Michelle Collins, and twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison.

The attorney for Montgomery acknowledged Monday night that the former 100-meter world record-holder has been subpoenaed. Tim Heaphy said he has not heard recently from the lead investigator in the probe, IRS special agent Jeff Novitzky, who promised to let him know if the case was advancing to trial and if Montgomery would be called to testify.

"If he is going to have to testify, obviously they are going to need to spend more time with him and prepare him, and that has not happened," Heaphy told ESPN.com. "So there is some anecdotal evidence that it is not going [to trial] later this month. I don't know if that means plea or continuance."

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.