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Soldier for the Constitution, Al Lindsay, fights for clients

posted November 04, 2016

Soldier for the Constitution, Al Lindsay, fights for clients

Tom Victoria  Eagle Staff Writer 
Soldier for the Constitution, Attorney Al Lindsay, 70, fights for clients

Butler Business Matters
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Butler attorney Al Lindsay is juggling cases that are receiving local, regional and national attention.

In quick succession this spring, Lindsay went from representing plaintiffs in the defamation case against former Butler County Commissioner Jim Eckstein to seeking an overturning of the Jerry Sandusky conviction.

Most recently, Lindsay defended a Plum school teacher accused of intimidating a witness.

When the Eckstein case was declared a mistrial April 29, Lindsay had to resume working on the Sandusky case May 2.

“If you’re a trial attorney, you live on borrowed time,” he said.

Lindsay said attorneys should be prepared to adjust their personal schedules and maintain focus. “I’m never in a situation when I’m not thinking about a case,” he said, citing the example of pondering legal issues while doing mundane tasks such as mowing grass.

The Eckstein case ended in a mistrial. A retrial is set for September.

Hearings on the Sandusky case are set for August.

Plum teacher Drew Zoldak recently was found not guilty in Allegheny County court of intimidating a student who accused another teacher of having sex with her.

Lindsay said it’s a great honor to be asked to represent someone needing legal help. “It’s a sacred trust,” he said. “It’s a very serious responsibility.”

Lindsay said Zoldak never made any comment about the student, but the teacher should not have been charged even if he did. “It still would not amount to a crime,” Lindsay said.

He said Zoldak was unjustly bunched together with the teachers accused of more serious crimes. Lindsay credited the jurors for being astute. “We had a wonderful jury,” he said.

Lindsay said a challenge in high profile cases is the media often puts forth a story inconsistent with the facts. “We find the narrative is wrong,” he said.

Lindsay recalled a case when he defended Brentwood police Officer John Vojtas, who was one of three officers charged in the 1995 death of Johnny Gammage in Pittsburgh. According to Lindsay, Vojtas was implicated in the death despite being out of the fray upon being injured. “There was no question my client was going to be acquitted,” Lindsay said.

Vojtas was found not guilty. The case against two other officers ended in a mistrial twice.

Lindsay said the cause of death was misreported initially as chest compression when it was actually cardiac arrest.He explained the circumstances — five white men involved in a fight with a black man who died — made the case highly charged. “To this day, people are complaining,” Lindsay said.

The Sandusky case, in which the former Penn State assistant football coach was convicted of child molestation, has received long-term national attention.
“People have a salacious interest in this stuff,” Lindsay said.

The attorney said he is convinced of Sandusky’s innocence, but conceded it would not be easy overturning a conviction.“It’s an uphill battle,” Lindsay said. He blamed the conviction on bad representation.

Lindsay said innocent people often have problems when they are accused of a crime. “They think the system works,” he said.Lindsay said Sandusky can have a fair trial the second time around.

He stressed having proper legal representation makes the difference. “It’s not a justice delivery system,” Lindsay said. “It’s a dispute resolution system.”

In the Eckstein case, former county Commissioner Dale Pinkerton, county human resources director Lori Altman and her husband, state Trooper Scott Altman, accuse Eckstein of spreading a corruption rumor about them.
Lindsay is representing the Altmans.

He summed up the point of the defamation case: “The importance of honesty in political discourse.”

Lindsay said a small case is no less important than a more prominent one because it is vital to the client.
According to Lindsay, there is a main reason he takes on a specific case. “I believe in the cause,” he said. “I truly believe in the defense.”

Lindsay respects his clients. “I like all my clients,” he said. “I’m the luckiest attorney in America. I happen to get all the good ones.”

There are times he bows out of a case. He stopped short of saying he drops clients he catches lying. “There are many cases declined because of an issue with a client,” Lindsay said. He doesn’t try to persuade a client on a course of action such as accepting a plea agreement or civil settlement. “The clients run the show,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay, 70, of Buffalo Township, who has a 44-year career, became the first full-time assistant district attorney in Butler County in 1972. He was appointed an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in 1975. In 1980, Lindsay entered private practice.

He prefers criminal cases, which have simpler verdicts, to civil ones. “Civil cases are generally more complicated,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay’s associate, Andrew Salemme, has observed the veteran attorney in action since joining the Lindsay Law Firm in February. “It’s been a marvelous learning experience,” Salemme said. “He has an excellent reputation. There’s a reason for that.” Salemme said not every lawyer has Lindsay’s skills or panache.
The younger attorney said he hoped he could be as effective in the courtroom someday.

On Lindsay’s part, the one thing he does not want to be is boring. He said some attorneys seem to not care if anyone is listening to them during a trial.

“You try to do the best for your clients,” Lindsay said. He said the role of a defense attorney is to help those suffering an injustice.

“We’re soldiers for the Constitution,” Lindsay said.