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Lawyer Arnold Levine says he will take over Julie Schenecker's defense

TAMPA — In January, when Julie Schenecker was charged with murdering her two children, the case fell to one public defender.

It was simple: State of Florida vs. Schenecker.

Four months later, seven attorneys hover around the looming murder trial, a divorce and a wrongful death lawsuit.

At stake? A $1.2 million estate and possibly Schenecker's life.

On Wednesday, longtime local lawyer Arnold Levine said he will defend Schenecker's murder charges if a divorce judge awards her marital assets. That would free taxpayers from a costly public defense.

Levine also signed up to defend her against the wrongful-death suit her husband filed Monday.

Legal experts said Parker Schenecker's lawsuit is a legal strategy to try to offset what Julie Schenecker wins in divorce court.

But her divorce attorney, Edward Brennan, said it would allow her to claim a share of the marital estate sooner.

She could then shed the public defender in the murder trial and hire Levine and his son-in-law, lawyer Paul Sullivan.

On Wednesday, Brennan requested a divorce judge award Julie Schenecker $200,000 of the marital assets to fund her defense in the wrongful-death suit. If the judge consents at a hearing next week, Levine and Sullivan will take over her murder defense. To prepare for that, Levine said he will meet this week with her public defender, Robert Fraser.

Julie Schenecker's new team is confident she has a legal right to alimony and half of the marital estate. And they expect a judge to approve the $200,000 request.

"It would be an absolute error for a judge not to award Julie money to defend herself," Brennan said, "thereby allowing her husband to get a judgement against her and take all her assets."

Brennan said he took her divorce case after she requested him by name to her public defender.

"I think I've divorced her entire circle of friends," he said. "I've divorced half of Tampa Palms."

Levine and Brennan were law partners for a decade. Now they work in separate firms, but a floor apart in a downtown building. On Tuesday, Brennan introduced his friend to Julie Schenecker at the Falkenburg Road Jail.

"It was a fruitful meeting," Levine said. "She listened … and agreed to my being retained."

Neither Levine nor Brennan would comment on Julie Schenecker's physical or emotional state.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon said she has been held in the jail infirmary and is being constantly monitored.

The infirmary is "just like a medical ward, where she's still treated for medical issues she had prior to coming to jail," McKinnon said. "She hasn't been a disciplinary issue. … She's quiet and very stoic."

Schenecker, 50, is accused of shooting her 13-year-old son, Beau, and 16-year-old daughter, Calyx, each twice in the head on Jan. 27.

In response to the growing legal team for Julie Schenecker, Lisa Eichhorn, a spokeswoman for Parker Schenecker, said in a statement: "Parker remains focused on giving voice to his children and it appears their goal is something different." Parker Schenecker, 48, has three attorneys representing him.

Levine, 79, a former federal prosecutor, has practiced law for more than 50 years and is known for representing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Denny McLain, a Major League pitcher convicted in 1985 on racketeering charges.

Contact Jack Nicas at (813) 226-3401 or jnicas@sptimes.com.

Lawyer Arnold Levine says he will take over Julie Schenecker's defense 05/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2014 11:46am]
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