A central Florida defense attorney who briefly represented George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case is accused of witness tampering in a juvenile rape case, sheriff’s officials said.
Hal Uhrig, who works for The Defense Group, was arrested Monday on charges of solicitation to commit perjury and witness tampering, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos López said during a news conference.
Uhrig, who represents a man accused of raping a child when she was 9, arranged a meeting with his client, the victim and her father, the sheriff said.
“The point of the meeting was to keep the rapist from going to jail,” López said.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
“The attorney instructed the victim and her father that they should do three things. Write a declination, basically a letter, to the state attorney saying the rape didn’t happen; avoid being served with a subpoena so you don’t have to go to court to testify; (and) lie during your deposition and say the rape didn’t happen,” López said.
The victim’s family told the state attorney’s office about Uhrig’s requests in July and the sheriff’s sex crimes unit began investigating. The girl is now a teenager, the sheriff said.
The child’s father met with Uhrig again, wearing a recording device, the sheriff said. The attorney asked the father to read a script on a computer screen that was apparently his client’s defense of the rape charge.
Uhrig, 75, was arrested Monday as he was getting into an elevator at the courthouse in Kissimmee, officials said. Uhrig later told an Orlando TV station that he is “not guilty of this.”
“We’re just going to go back to the boards like we always do. Sort out what happened,” Uhrig said. He bonded out of jail and was scheduled to make a first appearance in court on Tuesday.
The sheriff said he finds the allegations troubling and said officials don’t know whether similar requests were made to other victims in cases Uhrig was involved in.
“If you’re an attorney you’ve been practicing law for a long time and there’s no way you’re going to jeopardize your career on something like this, especially at that age, it’s retirement time,” Lopez said. “So I think that this wasn’t his first rodeo. Unless someone else comes forward we won’t know that, but that’s what I suspect at this time.”
Zimmerman was charged in the 2012 killing of teenager Trayvon Martin, but was later acquitted at trial after claiming self-defense.
Uhrig’s bio on the law firm’s website said he is a former assistant attorney general for Florida, and spent six years with the Gainesville Police Department before graduating from law school.