Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer, first appeared in “To Speak for the Dead” in 1990. Thirty years later, Lassiter is still navigating the shark-infested waters of the justice system. In “Cheater’s Game,” the heartbroken lawyer must defend his brilliant nephew Kip who’s charged as an imposter, taking entrance exams for students in the true-to-life college admissions scandal.
Paul: Earlier today, actress Lori Loughlin and her husband pleaded guilty in the college scandal. Any thoughts?
Jake: I wish I’d repped them, instead of my nephew. A fat fee without having to try the case.
Paul: That’s a little cynical. What about your quest for justice?
Jake: Justice doesn’t put pork chops on the table.
Paul: So why did they plead guilty after claiming innocence for the past year?
Jake: Because their lawyers aren’t idiots. They knew that jurors would find their clients to be rich, arrogant liars who thought they could game the system.
Paul: Are you saying that a defendant’s personality affects a trial’s outcome?
Jake: Duh! It’s Trial Practice 101.
Paul: So you would have plead out Lori Loughlin in return for a couple months prison time, rather than risk a trial?
Jake: Maybe not. Maybe, I’d put her on the stand, but not in designer duds. She’d admit everything and cry – actress tears – and say she’s sorry. Then, in closing argument I’d ask for a “Texas verdict.”
Paul: Which is?
Jake: “Not guilty, but don’t do it again.”
Paul: Okay, back to “Cheater’s Game,” I thought you’d retired, but here you are, back in the courtroom.
Jake: Don’t blame me, Scribbler. I hung up my briefcase after “Bum Deal,” but you put me to work again.
Paul: Admit it, Jake. You missed the combat of a criminal trial.
Jake: That’s your fantasy, Desk Jockey. Mine is to snooze in a hammock, drink tequila, and feed the peacocks.
Paul: You came back because your nephew Kip got in trouble. The boy you raised as your own son. That had to be painful.
Jake: I thought I’d taught Kip ethics and values, but I failed. I let him down.
“You release your child into the world, like launching a toy sailboat in a pond. Except the world is not a placid pond. More often, it is a raging sea, and life a perfect storm. You cannot prepare the child because your own personal crises, traumas and failures are just that, your own. Your child, as you will belatedly learn, is not you.” – Jake Lassiter in “Cheater’s Game”
Paul: There’s a lot of blame to go around in the college scandal.
Jake: I don’t understand it. Why would parents cheat to get their kids into so-called elite universities? Don’t they realize they’re saying, “You can’t make it on your own? And your only honors will be summa cum fraud.”
“In a society without shame, where faking it is making it and deceit trumps virtue, integrity is for losers and cheaters win. Fairness? Forget about it! A meritocracy? In your dreams! Earn your diploma? Why bother, when you can buy it?” – Jake Lassiter in “Cheater’s Game”
Paul: Yet, you plead your nephew “not guilty” and defend him in federal court when you know he took students’ SAT exams for big bucks?
Jake: All these years, Scribbler, and you’re still clueless about the justice system. My job is to force the government to prove its case.
Paul: Speaking of “years,” you were 40 in “To Speak for the Dead.” Thirty years later, you’re 60. How does that work?
Jake: Being fictional helps. Say, how are things at the Old Writers’ Home?
Paul: Forget about me. How’s your health? Your headaches, your memory problems.
Jake: You’re the punk who gave me chronic traumatic encephalopathy. I didn’t think you could even spell it.
Paul: Sorry about all those concussions at Penn State and with the Miami Dolphins. But it did bring you together with Dr. Melissa Gold, renowned neuropathologist. And…your fiancée.
Jake: About time you gave me a grown-up relationship, after all those femme fatales and floozies.
Paul: News flash, Lassiter. Nobody says “floozies” anymore.
Jake: News flash, Word Boy. You’re the ventriloquist. But it’s true that I’m in love with my doctor and she’s come up with experimental treatments that might help hundreds of other former players with C.T.E.
Paul: Would your brain injury have anything to do with your bizarre conduct during Kip’s trial?
Jake: You mean my hearing voices and lapsing into a George Carlin routine in the judge’s chambers?
Paul: Judge Speidel said you were flirting with contempt.
Jake: Flirting, hell! I took her all the way.
Paul: Judge Speidel seemed miffed that you didn’t give him due respect.
Jake: Federal judges! So damned high and mighty.
“Federal judges are phantoms who inhabit marble palaces, hidden from prying eyes and cameras. They sit on thrones and are served by a retinue of clerks, assistants, deputies, and, for all I know, court jesters.” – Jake Lassiter in “Cheater’s Game”
Paul: Face it, Jake. Your closing argument was unethical.
Jake: I’m not bad. You just write me that way.
Paul: You basically asked for “jury nullification.” Acquit my client even though he did everything the government charged him with.
Jake: I prefer to call it a “Texas verdict.” Do you know what that is?
Paul: You just told me a minute ago. So…what was the jury’s verdict?
Jake: I’d tell you if I could remember. But you’re the one who gave me memory problems, you multisyllabic babbler!
Paul: I’m not the one who told you to use your helmet as a battering ram.
Jake: You put me on the kickoff team, the suicide squad! What did you think would happen?
Paul: So, what now? You gonna retire again or smash down the doors to the courthouse and try another case?
Jake: Not up to me, is it, Svengali?
Paul: Now that you mention it, there’s a case I just heard about that’s right up your alley.
Jake: Great. You know what I always say?
Paul: Of course, I do.
Jake: “I want a cause that’s just, a client I like, and a check that doesn’t bounce. Two out of three, and I’m ahead of the game.” So, I’ll see you around, Scribbler.