(CN) - Two reporters conspired to discredit Alex Rodriguez's attorney by getting a past client - former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik - to file a false ethics complaint against him, the Yankee's lawyer says in a $15 million defamation lawsuit.
Joseph Tacopina's federal lawsuit in Manhattan describes New York Daily News reporters Nathaniel Vinton and Michael O'Keeffe as "obsessed with ridding the sports world of performance-enhancing drugs."
This would be an admirable goal, he says, were they opinion columnists and not news reporters. But he says the reporters have repeatedly slanted coverage in their crusade against athletes accused of doping.
Tacopina claims he became a target for defending the New York Yankees third baseman in his dispute with Major League Baseball, which suspended Rodriguez for 211 games for allegedly doping. Rodriguez's lawyer has publicly accused the MLB of acting unethically and illegally in its dealings with key witness Anthony Bosch, who admitted to having developed the Yankee's drug protocol.
As Tacopina's claims against the MLB gained traction, he says Vinton and O'Keeffe sought to write a "hit piece" to discredit him.
They allegedly turned to former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, a disgruntled former client of Tacopina's, "to provide false information to injure Tacopina's reputation."
The lawsuit describes Kerik as a "convicted felon and liar" who "wanted to rehabilitate himself by blaming all of his criminal convictions for corruption and fraud" on his former attorney.
Kerik, considered a national hero after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to eight felony charges, including tax fraud and lying to the White House while being vetted for the job of Homeland Security secretary.
Kerik allegedly told Vinton and O'Keeffe that Tacopina had disclosed privileged information in his case and had failed to notify him that he'd been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors.
These allegations are false, Tacopina says, and there are records to prove it.
He says his lawyer at the time, Lanny Davis, threatened to file a defamation action if the reporters ran with the story "based upon one uncorroborated anonymous source who was surely Kerik."
So they instead conspired to have Kerik file a false disciplinary action against Tacopina that would give them an excuse to report Kerik's "factually inaccurate allegations," Tacopina claims.
He says Davis confronted O'Keeffe, effectively telling him: "What a coincidence that after the story seemed dead, Kerik filed an ethics complaint at the 11th hour 59th minute during the Christmas break."
When asked if he had coordinated this strategy with Kerik, O'Keeffe allegedly paused and said, "I don't reveal our sources and tactics."
"Incredibly, O'Keeffe did not deny Kerik's (sic) implicit accusation -- something that he surely would have done if he and Vinton were innocent," Tacopina claims.
On at least one other occasion, O'Keeffe "has admitted in effect that he and Vinton engineered Kerik's filing of a disciplinary complaint so that they could publish a negative article about Tacopina," according to A-Rod's lawyer.
That article "contains numerous factually inaccurate statements and falsely implies that Tacopina engaged in unethical conduct and is an unethical attorney," Tacopina claims.
He demands a total of $15 million from Kerik, Vinton, O'Keeffe and the Daily News Corp. for defamation.
Neither Vinton nor O'Keeffe immediately returned requests for comment.
Tacopina is represented by Judd Burstein.
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