St. Paul defense lawyer still racking up victories after 40 years

Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune Updated: March 24, 2015

By nature, criminal defense lawyers tend to be enthusiastically irreverent if not outright impudent.

Earl Gray fits the description, and for his decades of efforts in the courtroom, he was, earlier this month, given a Distinguished Service Award from the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

At 71, Gray isn’t ramping it down in terms of workload, temperament or sartorial swagger. He draws attention when he walks into a courtroom, and not just for his pink ties, suspenders and tailored suits.

He has the emotional, demanding and bombastic style of a TV lawyer, something not always appreciated by certain judges and prosecutors. The criminal defense bar, however, apparently disagrees, and Gray has worked often with Joe Friedberg and Paul Engh, two highly regarded defense attorneys. Then there are the results. Criminal defense lawyers often come with a brash self­confidence that allows them to walk into a courtroom alone to match up with a prosecutor backed by police and a supporting team. Acquittals in big­time criminal trials don’t come easy, but Gray has gotten many.

Most recently, he won a first­degree­murder acquittal in Hennepin County for a 33­year­old St. Paul man in a 1999 killing outside a Minneapolis grocery store. That jury took less than four hours to acquit Earl Vang.

In 1994, he successfully claimed federal entrapment when his client, Iranian immigrant Kambiz Youssefi of New York, faced charges in an alleged extortion plot involving planned kidnappings, a Greek drug dealer and an FBI agent posing as a hit man. Youssefi was acquitted.

In 2006, he helped former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper get out from under lewd conduct charges stemming from an escapade on Lake Minnetonka commonly referred to as “The Love Boat.”

Married four times and the father of six, Gray said he’s having too much fun to retire. “When I get old, I’ll think about it,” he said Monday.

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