Crime - Sacto 911

Despite threat of firing client, Lyon’s lawyer still working on plea

The Michael Lyon legal soap opera continued Monday as his lawyer appeared to fire him in a courthouse hallway, then said later he was still working hard in plea negotiations to settle the criminal case against the wealthy businessman.

Sacramento attorney William Portanova has been working for months to resolve Lyon’s criminal case, in which he faces 16 felony counts of secretly videotaping women in his home, before it goes to trial in May.

At the last hearing on Friday, the two sides were unable to reach agreement and Portanova asked Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ben Davidian to schedule a Monday morning hearing on the matter.

Minutes before that hearing began, however, Portanova popped out of the courtroom on the first floor of the Sacramento County Jail and approached his client.

“Do you have new counsel here?” he asked brusquely. “You should. Fast.”

A short time later the hearing began and Portanova told the judge he and Lyon were present simply to confirm the trial date that had already been set.

Then, he asked if Davidian might be available for one more hearing on Friday, the judge’s last day overseeing the department that has heard Lyon’s latest case.

“Sure, I’ll be here on Friday morning, but I just want to make it clear that I’ve done everything I can to work this thing out if we can,” Davidian said to Lyon. “And the trial date is a solid trial date.

“It’s going to happen no matter what, whether it’s this lawyer or another lawyer or you represent yourself or whatever. It’s going to go to trial on May 2.”

After the hearing, Portanova, who has represented Lyon in his criminal legal cases since his first arrest in November 2010, downplayed the significance of his hallway conversation with Lyon, the former chief executive officer of Lyon Real Estate.

“Oh, a good attorney-client relationship has its up and downs, and that’s always the truth,” Portanova said. “We’re still in the middle of some intense plea negotiations, so it’s very difficult to say when the end is.

“It could have been today, it could be Friday.”

Portanova, a veteran criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, added that he considers this “a typical case” and that he is continuing to represent Lyon, 60.

“Of course,” he said. “I give every client the opportunity to get rid of me every single day.”

Lyon is accompanied to his hearings by his co-defendant and girlfriend, Shannon “Sam” Campbell, 41, who faces drug counts stemming from an October 2014 raid on Lyon’s Arden Park home.

Authorities raided the home after Lyon failed to appear for a probation appointment on his prior criminal case, in which he pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping women in his home.

Since then, Lyon has paid out at least $2.5 million in a civil suit settlement and faces two other lawsuits alleging secret taping, including one filed on New Year’s Eve.

Campbell’s attorney, Candice Fields, said after court that she, too, continues to represent her client. Asked if she expected to on Friday, Fields replied, “We’ll see.”

Sam Stanton: 916-321-1091, @StantonSam

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