What A Differencea Year Makes

With an immunity deal secured through 1986, coke broker Tommie Sikes sang like a canary. Make that "secured through 1985." Oops!

Sikes, who says he paid Entin a total of $95,000 for his services, filed suit in July against his ex-attorney for legal malpractice, hoping to recoup the million dollars, and more. At issue: Did Entin make a mistake when he drew up the immunity agreement?

Sikes's current attorney Zukoff points to Entin's own sworn testimony before Judge Kenneth Ryskamp in June 1988, in which Entin stated, "The original discussion that Tommie had, covered the years '85 and '86...and what happened is, what was typed was '81 through '85, when it should have been '81 through '86.... The mistake I made in the letter by putting in the year 1985 was a legitimate typographical error."

But after Entin testified, the DEA supplied its own notes of the original meeting, which indicated that Sikes had only sought immunity through 1985, not 1986.

Entin now says he isn't sure exactly what happened. He believed at the time that he had made an error, he says, but only because Tommie Sikes was so adamant that he was wrong. "He pretty much convinced me I made a mistake," Entin says. As for the DEA's version of the meeting, Entin says, "I don't remember what was said. They had better notes than I did."

Regardless, Zukoff maintains, it was Entin's responsibility to protect his client, and he should have requested immunity right up until the day the agreement was signed, a practice Zukoff says is common in such matters.

Entin is willing to admit that it would have been better to have extended the agreement through 1986 and into 1987. But he couldn't have known it was necessary at the time, he explains, because Sikes had lied about his criminal activity. "He played everything close to the vest," Entin says. "He had indicated [to Entin and to the DEA] that he had brokered three small deals. And it turns out he was the principal player in about 2500 kilos of cocaine, which is huge by any standard."

Sikes is scheduled to remain in prison until 2015, when he'll be 77. "What can you do?" he says. "I don't think I'm capable of living that long. This is where I'm going to die." He contends that the feds would have been perfectly willing to grant him immunity for that extra year, a fact that haunts him to this day. What irks him just as much, Sikes complains, is that even during the years when Entin believed the foul-up was his fault, he never offered an apology. "He knew he made the error and never once said, `I'm sorry. I'll do what I can to make it up to you.' Instead it was always, `Give me more money.'

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