With the world’s media focused on WikiLeaks and its founder unable to speak from his prison cell, cherub-faced solicitor Mark Stephens has effectively become the face of WikiLeaks.
He is both a lawyer for Wikileaks’s editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, who has angered Washington by publishing secret diplomatic cables, and his spokesman inside and outside court, working every angle simultaneously. A long-established media law adviser to major news outlets, Mr. Stephens now finds himself part of the story he’s helping them cover.
After arguing for Mr. Assange’s release at the failed bail application on Monday, Mr. Stephens addressed the world’s media from the steps of the courthouse, then rushed over to Channel 4 studios in time to be interviewed for the evening news. His face has become so familiar, a British editorial cartoonist recently sketched Mr. Stephens and Mr. Assange together as two monkeys.
On the eve of Mr. Assange’s high-court hearing Thursday, Mr. Stephens was still conducting interviews at 11:15 p.m. after wrapping up with CNN. The 9,300 unopened e-mails in his inbox would have to wait, Mr. Stephens said. The 53-year-old lawyer has slept only 12 hours in the past week.
Although he has courted the spotlight as a high-profile lawyer for three decades, Mr. Stephens said he was surprised by being catapulted into international celebrity status. He has advised royalty, fought former prime minister Margaret Thatcher on behalf of British miners (and won), and represented author Salman Rushdie, but even those notorious career highs did not prepare Mr. Stephens for Wikigate hysteria.
“It’s pretty full-on,” he said. “It wasn’t quite as viral in the past as it is today because that was pre-Internet.”
Mr. Stephens is the named partner of Finer Stephens and Innocent LLP, a prestigious London firm with about three dozen partners earning on average £130,000 and up. But Mr. Stephens is the “rainmaker.” He’s a tour de force – one minute preparing for a House of Lords debate on defamation, the next advising international broadcasters on libel issues and all the time running his own high-profile public-relations machine.
The father of three has written more than 150 books, collects art and goes to galleries in his spare time when he’s not advising a who’s who of media giants on defamation, intellectual property, copyright and human-rights law. Mr. Stephens’s clients control what the world reads, sees, and hears: CNN, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Dow Jones, and Bloomberg among others.
Even in the clubby world of celebrity lawyers and journalists, Mr. Stephens’s curriculum vitae stands out – all 18 pages of it – with two of those pages devoted to the number of newspaper articles he’s written, radio and television appearances he’s made and interviews with newspapers and Internet journalists.
With Mr. Assange in solitary confinement for 10 days, with no Internet access and only the Daily Express tabloid newspaper to read (another of Mr. Stephens’s clients), there is potential for Mr. Stephens to find himself tangled in his own spider web.
Mr. Stephens denied there was any conflict of interest when presented with the Rubik’s Cube of interests and internal Chinese walls he must maintain – Mr. Stephens’s clients are the same media conglomerates who report on their own lawyer’s court appearances representing Mr. Assange, who in turn is leaking the news published by the media Mr. Stephens advises.
“I’ve had no one who has put me in the embarrassing position of having to advise clients on what they should write about, WikiLeaks, or about anything else,” Mr. Stephens said. “The in-house legal advisers have dealt with it.”
Mr. Stephens said he’s become Mr. Assange’s spokesman out of “necessity” because his client has been “demonized” in prison, so he feels it is reasonable for him to advocate for Mr. Assange’s release, which may happen later on Thursday. A high-court judge will decide whether to confirm or overturn a lower court’s ruling that the 39-year-old Australian could be freed on $317,000 bail, under stringent conditions.
When the court convenes in London at 11:30 a.m., Mr. Stephens will again be centre stage, arguing that his client is a victim of his political beliefs, not a criminal who should be held without charge over Christmas until his next scheduled appearance on Jan. 11.
That’s what Mr. Stephens hopes he gets for Christmas – that and the original cartoon sketch of him and Mr. Assange perched as two monkeys.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre.com
Assange's admitted / disclosed behaviours constitute an amazing amount of
evidence that is enough to put him in jail for a long time.
With that amount of evidence being so public, it is incredible that so many people refuse to think objectively themselves about that evidence and blindly support a Rapist, a murderer and regardless of the fact that he just happens to be a threat to the national security of many a country which is next to irrelevant to the Swedish extradition proceeding whose evidence is GUARANTEED of having Assange extradited on the one of the first flights out of the UK after the snow clears.
Assange is just a very selfish Wombat and odds are he will be deported in shame back to Queensland where he can play with puppets with his mother.