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Raising Dollars for Defense, The Web Way

Just one day after launching a Web site to raise money for his legal defense, Drew Peterson shut it down. Why? Because that was all the time it took to raise the needed cash. Now the question is, Will Web appeals to fund legal cases become common for cash-strapped clients?

Joel Brodsky, the attorney for Peterson, a former police officer who is a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, launched the site,, last Tuesday. The purpose, as the Chicago Sun Times reported, was to raise money for his legal defense. Peterson credited lawyer Brodsky for coming up with the idea. The Web site said the money would be used to hire a private investigator to help find Peterson's missing wife Stacy. Leftover funds would go into a trust fund for Peterson's four dependent children. The first day, the site had so many hits -- more than a million -- that it crashed. The next day, Brodsky closed it down and disabled its domain, saying it had already "met its short term goal."

Brodsky is not saying how much money the site raised. But given its apparent success, it is fair to believe that we will now see a host of copycat sites. No doubt, the Peterson site owes some of its success to the media swarm surrounding the case. That makes similar sites an obvious tactic for other high-profile defendants and even for civil litigants in closely watched cases. But even less notorious litigants could be successful in raising funds via the Web, although perhaps on a more modest scale.

So what think you? Is this a smart approach for helping to offset the high costs of lawyers and litigation? Are there ethical issues to be concerned about? Is there a downside to raising money this way? Has this been done elsewhere with similar success? Have Peterson and his lawyer opened a Pandora's box?

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 17, 2007 at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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