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Time magazine Profile from June 1998.
Plato Cacheris: The Courtroom Impressario
By John Cloud
(TIME, June 15) -- In the real world, you know you've made it when you can
build a tennis court in your backyard. In Washington you know you've made
it when you can chuckle that the tennis court is named after a former U.S.
Attorney General who hired you as his lawyer. As a child, Plato Cacheris
clung to a second-generation immigrant's dream of becoming ambassador to
his father's Greek homeland. But the influence he has amassed over the past
four decades as a defense attorney exceeds that of most mere government
Cacheris is an uber-lawyer, the guy you want on speed dial when a
prosecutor is threatening you on the other line. He has had a role in
nearly every scandal since Watergate, when he defended Attorney General
John Mitchell (whose fee helped build Cacheris' tennis court). According to
Washingtonian magazine, when CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames saw that Cacheris
had agreed to be his court-appointed attorney, Ames beamed, "I was
wondering what I was going to do for a lawyer. And I get Plato Cacheris!"
Cacheris, 69, loves to be a player and earlier this year joked about being
only on the sidelines in the Lewinsky matter. "The President and Vernon
Jordan are already taken," he joked, when explaining why he agreed to
represent Jordan's chauffeur.
Though he dines at the Palm and wears London-tailored Tasmanian-wool suits
(at $1,500 a pop, each is paid for with about three hours of his billed
legal time), Cacheris' homelife has always been more prosaic. He and his
wife Ethel--they have been married nearly 43 years--frequently revisit his
roots on trips to Greece. His father Christos had only a sixth-grade
education, and as a teenager Plato flipped burgers at his dad's
restaurants. After a stint in the Marines, straight-arrow Cacheris worked
as a Justice Department prosecutor helping Attorney General Robert Kennedy
target the Mob.
Experience on both sides of the courtroom is a hallmark of the D.C.
superlawyer. It gives Cacheris an appreciation for his adversaries'
tactics. It also means he might invite foes over for tennis after a
grueling case. Cacheris is known to be friendly with several prosecutors in
town, though Kenneth Starr is not among them. Like William Ginsburg,
Cacheris can also be chummy with reporters; unlike Ginsburg, his comments
to them are more wise than wise-ass. When the New York Times reminded
Cacheris last week that Ginsburg had even discussed the infant Monica
Lewinsky's "polkehs" (her baby-fat thighs), Cacheris retorted, "Spare me."
Cacheris can play hardball, but he wraps his barbs in gentlemanly tones.
"He can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you look forward to the
trip," says John Moscow of the Manhattan district attorney's office. Like
all good lawyers, Cacheris knows that in many cases, a deal beats a court
fight hands down. Beneficiaries of his bargaining skills include Fawn Hall,
the former secretary to Oliver North who won immunity in exchange for
testimony, and Ames, who faced a possible death sentence until Cacheris
secured a life-in-prison plea bargain. But Cacheris is also a natural in
the courtroom, "a maestro," as a fellow lawyer puts it, who cross-examines
with laserlike ferocity and charms the jury with wit. ("My client is a
fool, an ass, a boor!" he once thundered. "But he is not a cold-blooded
strangler.") If he and Jacob Stein fail to win immunity for Lewinsky and
she ends up in court, the two will probably split the role of courtroom
defender--with Cacheris coming off more the showman. Even on the tennis
court, he's the exhibitionist of the pair. "He wears white ducks, and I
wear shorts," Cacheris notes. "My legs are better."
--Reported by Margaret Carlson and John F. Dickerson/Washington