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A wealthy Texas personal-injury lawyer is free on bail after being charged in South Carolina for ambulance chasing.


One of the nation's richest personal-injury lawyers, charged with ambulance chasing after a deadly plane crash, again proclaimed his innocence Wednesday after he was allowed to remain free on bail.

John O'Quinn of Houston and three other Texas lawyers were indicted last month. They face felony conspiracy charges for allegedly hiring ``accident runners' to recruit clients after the July 1994 crash of USAir Flight 1016 near Charlotte, N.C.The crash killed 37 people, most from South Carolina.

South Carolina bars lawyers from personally soliciting accident victims.

I'm innocent of these charges, these allegations, and in due process that will be shown,' O'Quinn said. ``None of my clients are complaining. ... This has nothing to do with the clients.'

O'Quinn, who represents five families, is charged with conspiracy, solicitation, splitting fees with nonlawyers and practicing law without a South Carolina license. He could face up to 28 years in prison and $10,000 in fines if convicted on all counts.

``Mr. O'Quinn basically was the mastermind,' prosecutor Barney Giese said.

Attorneys Carl D. Shaw and Charles B. Musslewhite Sr. were indicted on the same charges. Charles B. Musslewhite Jr., also a lawyer, is charged with one count of solicitation.

O'Quinn was allowed to remain free on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond. Shaw's bond hearing is set for Thursday; the Musslewhites are set to appear next week.

Also indicted were Darlene B. Hopper and George G. Dillard, both of Houston, and the Rev. Charles ``Carlos' Williams Jr. of Columbia.

Each faces charges of conspiracy, fee-splitting and practicing law without a license. Williams and Hopper also face solicitation charges.

O'Quinn's lawyer, Bart Daniel of Charleston, said the investigation ``began as a result of an article in the Wall Street Journal and some high publicity.'

The Journal has done several stories on O'Quinn and his run-in with the Texas Bar, which alleged he paid about $100,000 to the elder Musslewhite to help fund the effort to line up clients.

``This was not because of any articles in the Wall Street Journal. It was a request of Judge Joe Anderson, federal court judge, who was actually trying the USAir crash case,' Giese said.

Anderson told state Attorney General Charles Condon's office that he had received complaints of solicitation, Condon's spokesman Robb McBurney said.

A 12-member jury last month found the airline, now known as US Airways, liable for actual damages but not for punitive damages in the crash.

At least $40 million has been paid in settlements with the passengers and victims' families.

The government agreed to pay 30 percent of most damages up to $25 million.

Giese said no trial dates have been set for O'Quinn, Shaw or the Musslewhites.


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