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Rape-trial attorney bows out

NEWPORT BEACH – An Irvine attorney, who riled many with his aggressive questioning and courtroom demeanor in a gang-rape case, has taken himself off a powerful team of attorneys defending the son of a high-ranking county official.

Joseph Cavallo was lead attorney for Greg Haidl, son of Orange County Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, who along with two other teenagers is accused of raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl and sexually assaulting her with various objects at his father’s Corona del Mar home.

An eight-man, four-woman jury deadlocked on all 24 counts on Monday, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial. The district attorney refiled the case on Tuesday.

With an Aug. 6 pretrial date looming, Cavallo said he pulled away from the case because he needs to spend time with his family.

“This case has taken a lot of my time,” he said.

The way some of the media portrayed him affected his children, Cavallo said. A local weekly said he “spits out 17-year-old girls.”

“I’m just sick of all that,” he said. “I’ve put up with it for way too long.”

Cavallo said he also has two federal trials coming up in the fall and that he plans to spend the summer with his children, handling other cases and visiting his cousins in Italy.

“Today, I plan on going to buy goldfish,” he said. “Would I reconsider coming back to defend Greg Haidl? I don’t know. I’d have to take it one day at a time.”

“I’m not tired or burned out,” Cavallo added.

His co-counsel, Pete Scalisi, said Cavallo will be sorely missed on the defense team.

“He is an excellent lawyer,” Scalisi said. “He was instrumental in the success of the first trial.”

But Scalisi said he remains “100% optimistic because this case is full of reasonable doubt.”

“The jury ruled 11-1 in favor of acquittal on four counts and that is a powerful statement,” he said. “And the government’s case is not going to get any better.”

He said he expects John Barnett and Pete Morreale, who represent Haidl’s co-defendants, to remain on the team. The mild-mannered Scalisi admitted his demeanor and methods are different from Cavallo’s.

“The style may be different,” he said. “But the message and the passion are the same.”

Don Haidl said he hasn’t thought about whether he will use a co-counsel for the second trial to defend his son.

“Joe’s a great guy and a great friend,” he said. “But I understand that he needs to spend time with his family.”

Don Haidl said he wishes the district attorney hadn’t refiled the case.

“Every day is rough,” he said. “Right now, it’s hard for me to even fathom the word ‘optimistic.'”



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