Ted Wells is no stranger to headlines. Those come with the territory when the NFL has you on speed dial as their must-trusted investigator into the football world’s top scandals. But long before Wells was preparing reports on Tom Brady’s deflated footballs or the culture of bullying in NFL locker rooms, the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison partner appeared on the cover of the inaugural issue of New York Metro Super Lawyers in 2006. In a wide-ranging profile, we took an in-depth look at some of Wells’ biggest courtroom victories on behalf of clients connected to, among others, Presidents Reagan and Clinton. An excerpt:
Raymond Donovan, Ronald Reagan’s labor secretary, was one of several defendants accused of fraud in a 1987 trial lasting eight months. Wells represented the president of Donovan’s construction company but quickly emerged as the lead defense attorney, as much of the evidence focused on his client. Over the course of dozens of cross-examinations, news reports described him “shredding” prosecution witnesses. When the prosecution rested, Wells persuaded the other attorneys and their clients not to put on a defense. “It’s never going to get any better than this,” he told his colleagues. “I can see it in [the jurors’] eyes.” The other defense lawyers agreed, and then sat as Wells closed – for three days, without notes. Wells wept as the verdicts were pronounced: “Not guilty” more than 100 times. The young lawyer drying his eyes was a star.
Wells was incensed at the corruption charges against Mike Espy, a black man from Mississippi who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of agriculture. Espy may have violated the spirit of the ethics rules by accepting gifts such as tickets to football games from friends, Wells argued, but he did not break any criminal laws. Once again – while the government called 70 witnesses – Wells did not present a defense. Once again, a former cabinet secretary was cleared on all charges. After that verdict, Wells’ firm in New Jersey threw a welcome-home celebration. Espy drove up from Washington for the party. “I owe my soul, my spirit, and my countenance to the Lord,” he proclaimed. “But I owe my freedom to Ted Wells.”