Sidley Partner Hires Prominent Lawyer in Sex Assault Case

, The Am Law Daily

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Stanley Stallworth
Stanley Stallworth

Stanley Stallworth, a 50-year-old real estate partner with Sidley Austin in Chicago, has been accused along with his nephew of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man while the alleged victim was passed out on Thanksgiving.

The Am Law Daily has learned that Stallworth has retained well-known Chicago criminal defense firm Henderson Adam, which was formed in 2011 by former Holland & Knight partner Victor Henderson and local trial lawyer Sam Adam Jr. News of the charges against Stallworth and his 22-year-old nephew Therrie Miller were first reported Friday by the Chicago Tribune, with the Chicago Sun-Times and DNAinfo Chicago subsequently publishing their own stories on the alleged crime.

According to prosecutors, Miller met the victim, who has not been identified, at a suburban Chicago barbershop on Nov. 27. The teenage victim exchanged text messages with Miller, who invited him to meet him the next day at his uncle’s house on the 3300 block of South Calumet Avenue, according to news reports and court filings. (As noted by Above the Law, property records show a single-family home on the block was purchased in Stallworth’s name for $170,000 in 2005.)

The alleged victim later told law enforcement authorities that he consumed about one- and-a-half drinks at Stallworth’s South Side residence and passed out twice. The young man told authorities that the first time he awoke, Miller was performing a sex act on him and that Stallworth then did the same. The alleged victim claims he was naked the second time he regained consciousness, and that Miller then drove him home.

After telling his mother about the alleged assault, the young man was taken to a local hospital, where, according to prosecutors, a rape kit was administered. Both Stallworth and Miller have each been charged with one count of criminal sexual assault in connection with the incident. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Israel Desierto set bond for the accused defendants at $150,000 apiece during a Friday hearing, according to news reports. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 26.

Victor Henderson, a name partner at Henderson Adam and the former head of Holland & Knight's Chicago office, is serving as lead counsel to Stallworth. Henderson was in court Monday and unavailable for immediate comment, but did share with The Am Law Daily a statement prepared by the Stallworth family.

"The allegation is completely unfounded, and we look forward to defending vigorously Stan's good name and reputation," the family said. "Stan is a pillar of the community, and he has tirelessly worked on behalf of young people for the past 25 years. As a former teacher, current member of several nonprofit organizations focused on improving the circumstances of underserved youth and their families, and a major university scholarship donor, Stan remains undaunted in his commitment to improving society by creating more educational, cultural and social opportunities for underserved segments of his community. We are confident that justice will prevail and Stan can resume his normal life."

The family said it would have no further comment on the advice of Henderson, a veteran of several high-profile civil and criminal cases in Chicago courts. Henderson, whose firm biography states that he was the first African American to lead a Chicago office with more than 100 lawyers, founded his firm with Sam Adam Jr., the son of legendary Windy City trial lawyer Sam Adam Sr.

The father-and-son legal team represented disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich at his first corruption trial, which ended before a hung jury. The two Adams stepped back from the ex-governor’s defense in late 2010 after their client ran out of money to pay his legal fees. (Blagojevich is currently appealing his conviction on corruption charges at a second trial.) The duo also helped Chicago native and R&B singer R. Kelly win an acquittal on child pornography charges in 2008.

The publicity from those cases—particularly the first Blagojevich trial, during which the elder Adam lashed out at former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald (who last year took $3 million to join Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom) while battling federal prosecutors to a draw—helped the younger Adam bolster his own practice as his father headed toward retirement, according to a 2011 profile by the ABA Journal.

Stallworth will undoudtedly need all the criminal defense expertise Henderson Adam can draw on if he is to beat the charges filed last week by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Elizabeth Dibler, an assistant state’s attorney with the office’s criminal prosecutions bureau, is handling the case against Miller and Stallworth.

As of Monday, Sidley was standing by Stallworth.

“The firm is aware of certain criminal charges filed concerning Stan Stallworth, a partner in the firm. We understand that Stan has entered a plea of not guilty and intends to vigorously contest those allegations,” Sidley said in a statement issued to The Am Law Daily. “While the charges do not relate to the firm or the practice of law, Stan has requested and has been granted leave from the firm to devote his full attention to addressing these charges. The firm will have no further comments.”

Stallworth did not respond to a request for comment on the charges against him. He joined the firm in 1990 and has no record of discipline or pending proceedings against him with the Illinois State Bar Association.

A profile of Stallworth published in the November/December 2007 issue of a publication produced by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association states that he grew up in the southern Alabama city of Evergreen, where he owns more than 160 acres of real estate. He attended Alabama A&M as an undergraduate before getting his law degree from the University of Wisconsin, and is also an avid art collector, according to the MCCA story. Sibling publication The Recorder reported in 2007 that Stallworth headed Sidley's diversity efforts, while The Am Law Daily noted his role providing real estate counsel on client Bunge's $4.8 billion buy of Corn Products International the following year.

The charges against Stallworth are the second dose of bad news for Sidley's real estate practice in recent months.

Last year, former firm real estate practice head and executive committee member Lee Smolen left Sidley's Chicago office before resurfacing several months later at DLA Piper. A complaint filed this summer against Smolen by Illinois attorney disciplinary authorities accuses the ex-Sidley partner of defrauding the firm of nearly $120,000 in expenses, according to our previous reports. Smolen has admitted faking the bills, but maintains he did not do so for personal gain. The disciplinary panel has not yet issued a decision about what punishment, if any, Smolen will face.

Separately, The Am Law Daily reported in late October on the travails of another former Sidley partner, art law specialist Ralph Lerner, whose law license was suspended for a year by New York authorities over his own false expense filings. Lerner is also embroiled in litigation related to allegations he improperly billed a foundation created by late artist Cy Twombly for work he did on the organization's behalf.

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