Savage to represent cop facing murder charge

Attorney Andy Savage, left, approaches the U. S. District Courthouse in Peoria, Ill., with the rest of the defense team in 2009 during one of his most celebrated cases — accused terrorist Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. Savage will be representing a fired white North Charleston police officer charged with murder in the death of a fleeing black man.

Prominent Charleston defense lawyer Andy Savage will be representing Michael Slager, the fired white North Charleston police officer who was charged with murder Tuesday in the weekend killing of a fleeing black man following a traffic stop.

Savage has represented high-profile clients, including accused enemy combatant Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, investment fraud operator Al Parish, politicians, children of politicians and many defendants in capital cases. He has also held public office in Charleston County and hosted the Emmy-winning Comcast news show “The Savage Report.”

“He’s a very good lawyer, but he’s got his work cut out for him,” said Charleston School of Law Professor Miller W. Shealy Jr, a former prosecutor.

Shealy was involved in the prosecution of Savage’s client al-Marri, when Shealy was local counsel for the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice. Al-Marri, a Qatari national with ties to al-Qaida, spent 13 years in detention and was sent back to Qatar in January.

Savage’s new client is a 33-year-old former police officer — he was fired this week — charged with a killing that’s been seen around the world in a video captured by a passerby. The video shows then-Patrolman Slager firing eight times as Walter Scott, 50, attempts to run away, fatally wounding him.

Shealy described the video as “damning” and “horrific” and said that if he were Slager he’d probably call Savage, too.

“Andy’s one of the best at that kind of thing,” Shealy said.

Savage said by email Wednesday that he had started his own investigation.

“I suspect it will take some time,” said Savage. “As we focus in on the facts, we will probably have more to say, but it is far too early for us to be saying what we think. Slager’s previous counsel fell into that trap and we have no intention of doing our client further harm.”

David Aylor was originally Slager’s lawyer and released a statement on Slager’s behalf Monday — the day before the video surfaced and Slager was arrested.

“I believe once the community hears all the facts of this shooting, they’ll have a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding this investigation,” Aylor’s statement said.

The next day, when Slager was charged with murder and the video of the shooting went online around the world, Aylor withdrew as Slager’s lawyer, calling the incident “a terrible tragedy that has impacted our community.”

Aylor declined Wednesday to further explain his decision to withdraw from the case.

“I can’t really elaborate due to attorney-client privilege,” he said. “That’s something between he and I.”

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.