The Rev. Henry Lyons
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Lyons hires high-profile St. Petersburg lawyer
By STEPHEN NOHLGREN, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, whose life has taken a complicated turn of late, hired a prominent St. Petersburg lawyer Monday to help sort things out.
Anthony S. Battaglia and his law firm "will be handling legal matters from time to time," announced Tampa lawyer Grady Irvin Jr., who has tended to Lyons' affairs solo for several weeks.
Lyons and his finances came under scrutiny from authorities and the media early this month after, deputies said, his wife set fire to a Tierra Verde house that Lyons owns with another woman.
The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has subpoenaed Lyons to discuss that case, and he is scheduled to meet with them Friday.
Investigators also are examining how $28,000 in checks made out to various affiliates of the National Baptist Convention USA were cashed at a check-cashing service near downtown St. Petersburg.
Lyons is president of the convention as well as the longtime pastor of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church in St. Petersburg. A letter authorizing the check cashing bears his stamped signature.
Over the last few years, Lyons has spent thousands of dollars on property and vehicles. Last week, the state attorney's office subpoenaed records at St. Petersburg-based United Bank and Trust Co., where Lyons controls several accounts.
Irvin, who will continue to represent Lyons, specializes in representing athletes. Battaglia said it was too early to distinguish between his role and Irvin's.
Battaglia, a 1953 graduate of the University of Florida Law School and member of the Florida Bar's Board of Governors, has represented many high-profile clients. They have included former U.S. Rep. Richard Kelly, former Pasco County Sheriff John Short and former Pinellas County Commissioner A. Oliver McEachern.
Short, who was accused of official misconduct and unlawful compensation, was cleared of all criminal charges. Kelly, who was convicted of bribery in the so-called Abscam scandal, and McEachern, who was convicted of political corruption, both served time in prison.
Battaglia's law firm, Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & Wein, has about 20 lawyers, with offices in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Lakeland.
He declined to answer questions about Lyons on Monday. "I have a lot of catching up to do," he said.
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