Attorney Albert Watkins was wrong, even for Al Watkins.
St. Louis attorney Al Watkins, whose name is often in the news, is being sued by a former client who wishes his name wasn't in the news at all.
Former client Paul Henreid filed suit last week saying that when he hired Watkins to expunge a criminal conviction from his record, Watkins and his partner Michael Schwade ignored Henreid’s wishes to keep the story out of the press.
Henreid’s criminal conviction dates back to 1999, when his name was Paul Henroid and he was a law student at Washington University. Henroid, who changed his name in 2005, pleaded guilty to an invasion of privacy charge for secretly filming himself having sex with numerous women, according to the Post-Dispatch
. At the time, Henroid was working as a stripper under the name Geno, and he referred to the camera hidden inside his bedroom's alarm clock as the "Geno-cam."
One of the women caught wind of Henroid making the secret videos and turned him into authorities.
Henroid hired defense attorney Scott Rosenblum and pleaded guilty to the invasion of privacy charge in exchange for several other, more serious charges being dropped. One of his victims was 17 when he filmed her. He served 30 nights in jail — he was allowed out during the day to work — and performed 250 hours of community service.
Henroid went on to become a lawyer in California. He changed his last name to disassociate himself from the 1999 conviction.
Then, in 2018, Henreid hired Al Watkins' law firm to try to expunge the invasion of privacy conviction. Henreid says in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that he specifically asked Watkins and Schwade to "fly below their radar" in working toward the expungement.
Watkins counts among his former clients the "QAnon Shaman" and Mark McCloskey. In a recent press release Watkins issued, he referred to himself as "internationally recognized and outspoken" and "known for his breathtaking candor." His official bio page on his law firm's website states that Watkins is "self-centered, egotistical, and a self-proclaimed expert in all matters."
Also in 2018, Watkins sent a letter to then-Governor Eric Greitens asking for a pardon on Henreid's behalf. At the time, Grietens was himself facing invasion of privacy charges for allegedly taking a nude photo of a woman without her consent. Greitens had filed a motion to dismiss the charges, and Watkins argued it would be hypocritical for Greitens to not issue the pardon.
In addition to the letter to the governor, Watkins also issued a press release and gave media interviews about the case. Instead of flying under the radar, the lawsuit says the expungement attempt was reported in "the Associated Press from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
, Houston Chronicle
, Washington Post
, U.S. News & World Report
, American Bar Association Journal
, CBS News, Chicago Tribune
, several local and regional newspapers, and more."
According to the lawsuit, Watkins' actions "defeated the purpose" of the expungement and "stained" Heinreid's life. The suit cites Google and Yahoo search results associated with Heinreid's name and the case.
Heinreid told the Post-Dispatch yesterday
that Watkins' behavior was "narcissistic attention-seeking."
For his part, Watkins told the Post-Dispatch
that the allegations levied by his former client are erroneous. "This is an unfortunate cost of doing business in the legal profession,” he said.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Missouri, is seeking more than $1 million in damages.
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