SEATTLE — A former Renton criminal defense attorney nursed a yearlong grudge against seven lawyers and judges he blamed for ruining his reputation and legal career, then ambushed one of the attorneys, stabbing him in the back, King County prosecutors say.
Lee Rousso self-published a book in 2021, years after his law license was suspended, detailing perceived wrongs against him, along with homicidal fantasies involving the group of seven, who he referred to as the “Bar Card Lynch Mob,” court records show .
The main target of Rousso’s ire was a 64-year-old longtime Seattle criminal defense attorney, who he’s accused of stabbing in the back Dec. 13 before fleeing to California, according to a first-degree assault charge filed Thursday. Pasadena police took Rousso, also 64, into custody a couple of hours after a warrant was issued for his arrest, then booked him into the Los Angeles County Jail, records show.
Once Rousso is brought back to Washington, prosecutors have asked that he be held in lieu of $5 million bail.
The seven attorneys and judges, “targeted as a result of their work in the criminal justice system, have watched with significant concern as the defendant’s anger has increased, rather than dissipated, with the passage of time,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff wrote in charging papers.
“His rage covers all seven but is primarily focused on the victim in this case,” wrote Ernsdorff, referencing Rousso’s book.
Ernsdorff wrote in charging papers that as Rousso’s life crumbled — he shuttered his law practice, sold his family home and appeared to be unemployed — he “crossed the line from fantasy to reality.”
Ernsdorff noted in charging papers that the wounded attorney likely avoided a more serious or fatal injury because he was wearing a backpack when he was attacked.
A woman living in Seattle’s Central District called 911 the evening of Dec. 13, reporting his neighbor had been stabbed outside his house and that his assassin had been driven away in a blue car, according to charging papers.
Seattle police learned the wounded man was a criminal defense attorney who had driven home from his downtown law office and noticed a man in a parked car just north of his house, said the charges.
As the attorney walked to his house, he felt a blow to his back, shouted for help, and watched the man he had seen get back into his car and drive away, the charges said.
The attorney — who was able to provide the first three letters of the car’s license plate number — realized he had been stabbed after he felt liquid on his back, removed the backpack he was wearing and saw a “Rambo-like” knife on the ground , according to the charges. While at Harborview Medical Center, the attorney told police he suspected his assailant may have been Rousso, the charges say.
Roughly 10 years earlier, while representing a man appealing a criminal conviction, the attorney discovered that Rousso, the man’s trial attorney, had not reviewed some of the evidence in the original case, according to the charges. As a result, the attorney claimed Rousso had provided ineffective counsel, the charges say.
Rousso later sued the attorney and another lawyer involved in the appeals case for defamation, claiming they had ruined his reputation, according to the charges. The defamation case was later dismissed, and Rousso was ordered to pay the other attorneys’ legal fees.
After the stabbing, the injured attorney contacted the other attorney sued by Rousso to tell her about the incident, the charges say. The woman and her husband later told the police they and their neighbors had also seen a suspicious blue car parked outside their Ballard house in the days before the other attorney was stabbed, saying the charges.
Witness interviews, cellphone records, employment records from Rousso’s previous work as an Uber driver, and purchases made on his state-issued electronic benefits transfer card placed him near both attorneys’ houses and helped police build a criminal case against him, according to the charges .
The 41-page charging document includes excerpts from Rousso’s book, quoting him as saying he’s certain he could kill the male attorney and get away with it and that he had dreams of disfiguring the female attorney.
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this story was originally published January 14, 2023 6:43 PM.