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USC’s Sanchez Hires Attorney

Times Staff Writers

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was arrested last week on suspicion of sexual assault, has hired a prominent local defense attorney.

Leonard Levine said Thursday he had been in contact with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and would meet with prosecutors to present what he says are facts and evidence that would clear Sanchez.

“We’re confident, based on what we know, that Mark will be exonerated of all allegations of sexual assault,” Levine said.

Sanchez, 19, was arrested on April 26 after a female USC student told police he had sexually assaulted her. Sanchez is free on $200,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court May 17.

The district attorney’s office has received some results from a Los Angeles Police Department investigation, but detectives are continuing to work the case, according to law enforcement officials. No decision has been made on whether charges will be filed, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office said.

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Levine has defended a number of high-profile clients, including Michael Edwin Wempe, a priest found guilty in February of one count of molesting a boy; actor Jeffrey Jones, who in 2003 pleaded no contest to inducing a 14-year-old boy to pose for sexually explicit photographs; and Russell Otis, the boys’ basketball coach at Compton Dominguez who in April 2001 was acquitted on charges that he sexually molested one of his players.

A UCLA graduate, Levine acknowledged he has written several letters to The Times’ Sports Viewpoint in the last few years, some critical of former basketball coach Steve Lavin and current football Coach Karl Dorrell.

Levine’s name was also on a letter that was published by the Times on April 23, 2005, after the district attorney’s office, citing insufficient evidence, did not file sex- or drug-related charges against former USC cornerback Eric Wright.

It read:

“Let’s see, UCLA football players are arrested for drunk driving and handicapped-parking offenses, and are prosecuted and convicted. USC players are arrested on suspicion of rape, with 136 illegal pills in their apartment, and no charges are filed.

“Not only does USC have better players, it has better lawyers! It’s almost like, if you went to USC, you can get away with anything.”

Levine said he did not write the letter, that it was penned by a friend who signed his name to it as a joke without him knowing.

“It’s clever, but it’s not me,” he said.

USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett declined to comment specifically about any controversy surrounding USC football -- including the school compliance office investigating the financial arrangement by which All-American receiver Dwayne Jarrett and former quarterback Matt Leinart shared an apartment last season.

Also, the Pacific 10 Conference and the NCAA are investigating the relationship between a fledgling sports marketing firm and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and his family.

An investigators’ meeting with one of the firm’s executives has been delayed until next week, the executive’s attorney said.

“Kids are not perfect and we understand this,” Garrett said. “That’s why they’re in college, to grow and make mistakes.... Our biggest job is to put them back together and mend them so they learn from their mistakes and also learn from their successes.”


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