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FAMU job's funding under scrutiny
A lawyer awaiting trial may have used money from clients to endow the law school chair.
Published October 31, 2007
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A $1-million endowed chair at Florida A&M law school could become central to the trial of three Kentucky lawyers on wire fraud charges that they bilked clients out of millions in a settlement over the diet drug fen-phen.
Federal prosecutors said they may use evidence that lawyer Shirley Cunningham Jr., a co-owner of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Curlin, used money taken from clients to endow the chair, which is the subject of a separate investigation.
Cunningham, William Gallion and Melbourne Mills Jr. are in jail awaiting trial on charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud. A state court judge has ruled that the three men owe more than 440 clients at least $42-million.
The motions concerning Florida A&M were among a flurry of filings as the case moves toward a trial scheduled for January.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Voorhees said in one motion that evidence would show the $1-million gift came from fen-phen funds from clients.
"Therefore, it is relevant evidence of the execution of the fraud," Voorhees wrote.
Cunningham's attorney, Steven Dobson, is seeking to keep references to Florida A&M out of the fen-phen trial.
Cunningham gave the money to Florida A&M in January 2002 with the condition that the school grant him the position at a yearly salary of $100,000. The school fired Cunningham in 2005 after interim president Castell Bryant said there was no evidence Cunningham had done any work at the law school.
Federal prosecutors investigated Cunningham, but haven't filed charges. The Florida Attorney General's Office said it is reviewing the arrangement.
Cunningham and Gallion bought Curlin for $57,000. They sold controlling interest of the colt in February for a reported $3.5-million to a group.