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Defense attorney winds up on witness stand in federal court

Beau Brindley built a promising legal career in Chicago defending clients from federal prosecution.

But Brindley found himself fighting to save that career Tuesday, taking the witness stand during his trial on perjury and obstruction of justice charges at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. The bench trial is now in its second week.

Federal prosecutors have accused Brindley and associate Michael Thompson of coaching witnesses to lie under oath, as well as offering false information to the courts and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Brindley, a 37-year-old Iowa native, had his chance Tuesday to tell U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber how he would prepare clients for trial.

“The only direction I give them is that they have to tell the absolute truth,” Brindley testified, dressed in a gray suit and red tie.

The feds raided Brindley’s offices at the historic Monadnock building downtown in July 2014. That’s where they said they found four versions of a direct examination for one of Brindley’s clients, allegedly describing conflicting reasons why the client was arrested at a drug deal.

But Brindley testified it was “standard practice” at his law firm to develop question-and-answer forms, or “Q&As,” as his associates prepared witnesses for trial. The “Q&As” would be reviewed for accuracy and revised as different associates spoke to the witnesses. The “Q&As” also became a tool for the associates to communicate about anticipated testimony.

“We’re not going to go into court and hear something we’re not expecting,” Brindley said.

Prosecutors have alleged a conspiracy spanning from September 2008 to June 2013 that involved seven separate legal proceedings. Brindley spent much of Tuesday morning discussing one of them, the case against his client, Alexander Vasquez.

Vasquez was arrested after he fled a one-kilogram cocaine deal in Arlington Heights arranged by his cousin, Joel Perez, records show. Perez’s wife, Marina Perez, would later become a co-defendant of Brindley’s. Also known as Marina Collazo, she pleaded guilty in November and admitted she lied on the stand in 2009 — but only at Brindley’s urging.

Brindley described Marina Perez Tuesday as an “extremely volatile, hostile person.” He said she became angry when he told her he wouldn’t mount a joint defense for Vasquez and her husband because he thought her husband was guilty.

After she later agreed to speak to him about the details of the case, Brindley said he sent her two letters reviewing their conversation in advance of her testimony at trial. In one, he wrote, “tell them the truth just as we discussed.” Then he reviewed the specifics of the conversation as he recalled them.

In the second letter he told her, “The most important thing I can stress to you is that you simply tell the truth.”

While he may have upset Marina Perez, Brindley apparently had a fan in Vasquez. The judge saw letters Tuesday that Vasquez wrote to Brindley ahead of his trial. One read, “I’m ready for trial, are you? You’re the best around Beau!”

In another, Vasquez told Brindley, “you’re #1.”

Finally, during his trial, Vasquez scribbled a note to Brindley that read, “I think you’re leaving me 150 poorer.” Brindley said the note was a reference to Vasquez’s promise to pay Brindley $150,000 if Vasquez was acquitted. Brindley called it “nonsense,” and Vasquez would ultimately be convicted of a drug conspiracy.

“I said, pay me what you owe me,” Brindley testified.