How USC's Josh Shaw has access to high-profile lawyer is unknown

How USC's Josh Shaw has access to high-profile lawyer is unknown
Donald Etra, left, stands by Snoop Dogg in court in 2007. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Among the many questions swirling around the Josh Shaw story at USC, one more has popped up.

How does a college athlete end up with a high-profile lawyer whose client list has included Rihanna and Snoop Dogg?

Shaw, who lied about how he injured both ankles last weekend and has been suspended indefinitely from the team, is being represented by Los Angeles attorney Donald Etra.

"I do not discuss financial agreements between me and my clients publicly," Etra said when asked about how or if he is being paid. "It's a privacy issue and a matter of professional ethics."


Attorneys often seek out clients in the public eye, be they football players, actors or politicians. The publicity is good for business.

And when it comes to college athletes accepting such help, the NCAA sets a standard that seems tricky to prove.

Rule 16.02.3 permits student-athletes to receive pro bono legal service from an outside agency provided the service is not based on the player's athletic ability and would be offered to non-athletes.

Etra, 67, was present Wednesday when Shaw admitted to USC officials that he had lied. Shaw fabricated a tale about leaping from a second-story balcony and landing on concrete while saving a nephew from a swimming pool Aug. 23 in Palmdale.

Etra said Shaw was injured after he fell off a balcony at the Orsini Apartments complex near downtown.

The Los Angeles Police Department said Friday it was investigating a possible domestic violence angle to the Shaw case. The LAPD said Shaw previously told them he was not at the Orsini on Saturday night, but now they know that he was so they'd like to speak with him again. Shaw has declined to cooperate further on the advice of Etra, the LAPD said.

Etra previously represented pop sensation Rihanna in her 2009 assault case against rapper Chris Brown.

Two years earlier, Etra represented Snoop Dogg — twice — when the rapper faced felony gun and drug charges. Snoop Dogg's charges were reduced to misdemeanors.

Fran Drescher, star of "The Nanny" sought Etra for legal counsel in 1999, when she was sued by a stunt woman who claimed injury on the set of a movie Drescher executive produced.

Times staff writer Gary Klein and correspondent Lindsey Thiry contributed to this report.