Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, the jailed "Wire" actress, has swapped defense attorneys one week after her lawyer posted a "Free Snoop" video on YouTube encouraging fans to send fan mail to Pearson at Central Booking.
Attorney Paul Gardner confirmed Tuesday afternoon that he was withdrawing from the case, citing struggles with Pearson's management team. Gardner, whose law practice deals largely with corporate and entertainment law, said meddling from Pearson's team had become "too much."
Instead, Pearson, 30, will be represented by criminal defense attorney Benjamin C. Sutley.
"I've been in touch with people from her management, and I've visited her a few times and we hit it off right away," Sutley said. The switch "is for good reason. Just like I wouldn't get into entertainment law, this is potentially serious, and she needs proper representation."
The actress, accused of providing money to a heroin organization, was taken into custody at her downtown apartment during a sweep earlier this month in which dozens of people were locked up as part of a joint investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Baltimore police. Though many co-defendants are facing federal charges, Pearson was charged at the state level.
The attorneys confirmed the change in her representation after Salaam Id-deen, a Philadelphia-based producer and friend of Pearson, criticized Gardner's handling of the case in an interview with The Baltimore Sun, specifically calling the YouTube video a "debacle." In it, fans are encouraged to write to Pearson at the jail or through Gardner, and well-known musicians Wale and DJ Khaled offer words of support.
In an interview with The Sun on Monday night, Gardner said he first discussed the video with Pearson, who he said endorsed putting it online. "I'm trying to lift her spirits and give her encouragement. I wish more attorneys would do stuff like that," he said.
Gardner also said in that interview that Pearson "wants to make sure her fans know that she did not do anything. She's not selling drugs, she's not aiding and abetting, she's not engaging in any conspiracy to possess or sell drugs.
"The allegation is that she's on the phone talking about money," Gardner said. "That's something 99 percent of Americans are engaged in today. It can be construed any way. ... That's one of the easiest things a prosecutor can allege in ensnaring a group of people."
Gardner, a corporate entertainment lawyer, has handled few criminal cases in recent years, according to court records, and was trying to navigate the criminal court system to get Pearson's no-bail status revised.
Though a hearing is set for April 6, according to the city state's attorney's office, Sutley said he doesn't think such a hearing is necessary. Pearson will likely celebrate her 3ist birthday behind bars.
"At this point, you'd have to bring up new information that wasn't considered at the first" hearing, he said. "There's really nothing substantial to bring up. We're just focusing on the merits of the case."