Friends in Low Places

The feds suspect that Tony Martin, Miami native and NFL star, helped his childhood pal launder drug proceeds

Hirsch may have won the judgment, but he has new problems. Federal prosecutors are trying to remove him from the Brownlee case; they want to call Hirsch as a witness against his client and to question him about the disputed fee. He has hired two other lawyers to defend his right to defend Brownlee. The hearings have all been closed to the public, the courtroom's doors locked and the windows covered. The secrecy was required because of the ongoing grand jury testimony in the Brownlee case; it was also an attempt to protect Hirsch's reputation, sources said.

"A sealed motion was filed to disqualify me," Hirsch says. "And we are presently vigorously fighting it. That's about all I can say." One of Hirsch's lawyers, Scott Srebnick, hastens to add: "There is no suggestion in any way whatsoever that Milton engaged in any impropriety."

The investigation of Martin may provide information about a missing link in the Brownlee case: money. Though Brownlee was accused of running an outfit that moved 80 to 100 kilos of cocaine a week and shipped it all over the country, few of the profits could be traced.

But in August, seven months after Brownlee's arrest, the U.S. Attorney's Office added the charge of money laundering to the drug allegations. The prosecutors allege Brownlee conspired with "persons both known and unknown to the grand jury" to hide money from drug sales. They suspect that Martin is one of those "persons."

This spring's trade to Atlanta was lamented in the San Diego Union-Tribune, which wrote that Martin had been the Charger's "most productive player." Martin told reporters simply: "I'm thrilled to be a Falcon. I know that's a fast carpet at the Georgia Dome, and I have a lot of respect for Coach Reeves." Atlanta is scheduled to pay him a base salary of $1.45 million this year, up to $2 million by the year 2000.

Now that his trial is delayed until at least March 1999, Brownlee will have plenty of time to watch Martin's season with the Falcons. But when it comes down to it, Brownlee isn't a fan of Atlanta. In fact, he doesn't even like the Dolphins. "It's the San Francisco 49ers," says a friend. "He's a San Fran fan.

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