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Tiger Woods' Travails a Bounty for Barristers


Commentary by Ann Woolner

(Bloomberg) — Whether a one-night hook-up or a long-running romance, a relationship without marriage rarely requires lawyers.

Why call in a legal expert unless there's a pre-nup to negotiate, a will to write or a divorce to handle?

Tiger Woods's sex life, on the other hand, has been a holiday gift to lawyers from one U.S. coast to the other, and overseas, too.

Of course he hired a criminal defense lawyer, Mark NeJame, after the car crash that broke open his secrets. He exercised his right to remain silent when police sought him out, most probably on advice of counsel.

But when more than a dozen alleged paramours emerged, the legal issues grew more interesting.

Woods's London lawyers won a court order this month barring British news organizations from publishing what purported to be nude photos of Woods but which his legal team claimed didn't exist.

More lawyers no doubt were called in when companies that pay the formerly squeaky-clean Woods to endorse their products no longer wanted to associate with him.

And you can bet whatever Woods says these days, which isn't much, has been vetted by attorneys.

But what about all those women? Some have enlisted counsel, too, and you have to wonder why.

Hush Money Rumors of hush money float about in tabloids and on celebrity gossip Web sites. If you're looking for that kind of payoff, you wouldn't want just anybody negotiating it. And attempting it yourself might land you in the sort of trouble plaguing Robert "Joe" Halderman, accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman over the talk show host's sexual peccadilloes.

In Wood's case, the first to be outed was Rachel Uchitel, who was reportedly the reason for an argument between Woods and his wife the night of the crash. She's hired Hollywood lawyer Gloria Allred, who's had lots of experience representing women with links to celebrity.

Allred, whose Los Angeles firm specializes in discrimination cases, counts among her former clients the family of Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J. Simpson's murdered wife; Kelly Fisher, a model who said she was engaged to the now-late Dodi Al-Fayed before doomed Princess Diana came along; Amber Frey, an ex-lover of Scott Peterson and a witness against him at his murder trial; Melanie "Scary Spice" Brown, who claimed actor Eddie Murphy fathered her daughter; and Brittany Ashland, whom actor Charlie Sheen pleaded no contest to battering, according to the Huffington Post.

All Quiet Allred declined to discuss Uchitel's situation or that involving another of Woods's alleged girlfriends, Theresa Rogers, whom she reportedly also represents.

"No comment. Sorry," she e-mailed in response to my request to interview her or her clients.

But we do know something about what Allred is doing for Uchitel, a New York nightclub hostess, party planner and a former Bloomberg television producer.

Allred complained to ABC when a joke-cracking panel on "The View" implied that Uchitel was a prostitute. Earlier, Uchitel was the one accused of slander when she trashed the friends who had exposed her relationship with Woods.

Media Un-Invited Then Uchitel dropped her denials of a Woods liaison, and Allred scheduled a press conference at her office in Los Angeles to reveal all about the relationship, only to abruptly cancel it. Speculation that Woods is agreeing to pay Uchitel millions of dollars to keep her mouth shut followed. The Daily Beast Web site says the sum could be as much as $5 million and reports that Woods has a team of lawyers trying to squelch these sorts of stories.

Another woman reportedly an Allred client, Rogers, said Woods fathered her 5-year-old child. She acknowledges he isn't the only candidate for paternity.

There are other ways to profit from an affair with a celebrity, such as writing a book, as Monica Lewinsky did. Porn star Holly Sampson, who wants people to understand that Woods was single when she dated him, says she's working on a film whose script is titled, "Holly Sampson Golf Project."

In addition to Rogers and Uchitel, at least two other women linked to Woods have reportedly lawyered up. Jamie Jungers and Julie Postle, both cocktail waitresses, have hired Michael O'Quinn of Orlando. My message to him wasn't returned.

Woods's Pros Woods's lawyers are pros at handling this sort of thing. The Daily Beast reports he's represented by Lavely & Singer of Los Angeles, which boasts on its Web site that it specializes in going up against tabloids and other media for "the publication of articles which defame the clients or invade their privacy." The firm persuaded the National Enquirer to spike an earlier story of a Woods affair, the Daily Beast says.

Whether any of these women have tried to sell their stories, photos or text messages isn't known. Reputable news organizations don't pay people for information, but tabloids and Web sites do.

The National Enquirer does, for example, "when it's accurate," as the paper's editor-in-chief at the time, David Perel, told CNN last year. He's since left the newspaper to run RadarOnline.com, one of the celebrity gossip Web sites that's hot on Woods's trail.

And speaking of the Enquirer, which broke open Woods's secret life with the first story on Uchitel, the newspaper also broke the news of former U.S. Senator John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter.

The Edwards-Hunter saga offers an unsavory example of the lawyer's role in that sort of scandal.

Hunter and an Edwards aide at first claimed through lawyers that the aide was her baby's father. Now they admit all that was a lie.

How do we know they changed their story? For one thing, it's all in court papers written by, you guessed it, lawyers.

(Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Ann Woolner in Atlanta at awoolner@bloomberg.net.

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