Shawn Nelson and conservative disdain for defending terrorists and pedophiles

R. Shawn Nelson, Fullerton City Council

I wrote last week about Fourth District Supervisor candidate R. Shawn Nelson and his efforts to distance himself from his work as a criminal defense attorney in my post “Shawn Nelson – Freedom Fighter and Defender of the Accused.” Nelson has made a career of defending accused rapists, pedophiles, drunk drivers, and terrorists. When I got around to watching the March 9th recording of the Daily Show I gained some unexpected insight into what Nelson is dealing with.

Jon Stewart conducted an interview with former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen author of the book,  “Courting Disaster.” Stewart started off the interview asking Thiessen about an editorial he wrote in the Washington Post, “The ‘al-Qaeda seven’ and selective McCarthyism,” defending the efforts of Liz Cheney to attack attorneys who have represented “enemy combatants.” At about 3:50 into their interview Stewart and Thiessen have the following exchange:

STEWART: If you represent a pedophile are you then saying I am sympathetic to pedophiles – everybody that represents pedophiles is sympathetic to pedophiles, is that your contention?

THIESSEN: If you’re a lawyer and you decide to spend all of your time representing pedophiles (criminals), it would raise a question.


THIESSEN: Because – why are you so interested in – why are you trying to free these people?

STEWART: Because you believe in the rule of law and that the country’s fabric is decided not by the easiest cases to take but the hardest cases to take.

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I think Thiessen has provided some real insight into the plight of Shawn Nelson. His life’s work is defending accused criminals, including pedophiles, rapists, terrorists, etc.  My guess is that as a conservative Republican he shares some of the same beliefs as Liz Cheney, and Marc Thiessen. This may explain the effort that Shawn Nelson has made to scrub all record of his actual work as a  criminal defense attorney.  His own biography on his Supervisor campaign website reflects his apparent concern:

An attorney by profession, Council Member Nelson is the managing partner in the Santa Ana law firm of Rizio and Nelson. Mayor Nelson is a civil litigator and represents small business owners and individuals in a variety of legal matters.

Rank and file tea partiers, tea baggers, Republicans, wing-nuts, etc. cannot stomach people who represent “those people.” This might explain why Nelson managed to miss out on the endorsement of the ultra-conservative California Republican Assembly (CRA). They seem to want nothing to do with him.

  9 comments for “Shawn Nelson and conservative disdain for defending terrorists and pedophiles

  1. Dan Chmielewski
    March 15, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Chris, IOKIYAR. It’s OK if you’re a Republican. If a Democratic lawyer with these credentials were in the race, the GOP would be all over this. Our friend Todd Gallinger represents the local CAIR chapter on issues of immigration and naturalization but that hasn’t stopped some people of accusing him of being a terrorist lawyer by associating CAIR with HAMAS. Even though this clearly isn’t the case with the people Todd represents locally

  2. March 15, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I’m sorry, but do you have any listing of Nelson’s clients that you can show he defends pedophiles?

  3. March 15, 2010 at 10:40 am

    So is Darren Aitken a scumbag for defending Matt Cunningham when Matt screwed up and posted the names of victims of molestation?

    • March 15, 2010 at 11:18 am

      So what’s your excuse for promoting gay porn and pederasty on web site you used to own?

    • Howard be my name
      March 15, 2010 at 11:40 am

      Art, I’m pretty sure you can read. Go back and look at the story again. What Chris is saying is that there’s nothing wrong with defending someone, regardless of what they’ve done. He did not call Nelson a scumbag. Quite the opposite.

      “…the country’s fabric is decided not by the easiest cases to take but the hardest cases to take.”

      I’ve never been accused of anything more serious than a moving violation, but if it ever happens I will hire the best criminal attorney I can find/afford. If I’m innocent I will want to be exonerated, and if I’m guilty I will want my sentence to be just.

      CR, if you look at the prior post you’ll see a list of the kinds of cases Nelson’s firm takes, including “child enticement,” “molestation,” and “statutory rape.”

    • Howard be my name
      March 15, 2010 at 11:44 am

      Jeez, Art, maybe you can’t read after all. I just noticed the trackback below, in which you apparently say “The Liberal OC’s Chris Prevatt wrote a post today ripping Fullerton Councilman Shawn Nelson for being a defense attorney.”

      Then again I guess there’s a difference between reading ability and reading comprehension.

  4. March 15, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Actually, Chris didn’t say that. He reported what a former Bush Administration official said about lawyers who defend pedophiles that they should be “questioned.” He also noted that Nelson scrubbed his business website to remove references to this. Chris actually defends the need for defense lawyers. Is Nelson not proud of his work defending clients?

  5. lawspud
    March 17, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    I firmly believe in our criminal justice system and the accused’s right to an attorney. I also believe that a defense attorney should be evaluated by his/her actions and ethics, not by the clients that they represent. That is, the attorney did not commit the crime of which his client is accused, so he should not be grouped and demonized with his clients. (The public bias against those accused of crimes pre-conviction is a topic for a different day.) The attorney should, instead, be assessed by his/her ethics, professionalism, and commitment to the job at hand.

    However, it is interesting to note that Mr. Prevatt has committed some telling slight of hand to change the words of Mr. Thiessen from his interview with Jon Stewart. Omitted from his “transcript” of Thiessen’s statement is the caveat that the defense work in question is pro bono (free of charge to the client). Thiessen’s point to Stewart was this: an attorney’s pro bono time is limited. If that attorney devotes substantially all of his “free” time to pedophiles, that may indicate a reason to look closer at the attorney’s motives.

    Does that omission effect the debate? I don’t know, but it should certainly have been included to give proper context to Thiessen’s position. I personally tend to agree with Stewart that the “hardest” cases are the most meaningful tests of our rule of law. Hardest in the sense of most offensive, not most difficult to win your side of the argument, that is. I also believe that false allegations of child molestation are shockingly common and extremely hard to combat in court due to the knee jerk “guilty” reaction of the average citizen. So an attorney who seems over-committed to accused pedophiles may truly be striving to protect every defendant’s right to a fair trial and aggressive defense, not pursuing some imaginary pro-molestation personal agenda.

    But the point of the article remains the same. Mr. Nelson is in the unfortunate position of having to distance himself from his work due to the prejudices of the voting public in spite of the fact that he is extremely successful and well respected in the local legal community. This is the same voting public, I might add, that would certainly not hesitate to call him or someone like him if they found themselves accused of a crime, big or small, guilty or innocent.

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