Toronto Star

Aug. 14, 03:16 EDT

Sex scandal rocks Canadian's murder trial

Extradited suspect allegedly caught having sex with his lawyer in U.S. jail

Toronto Star

SEATTLE (AP) A veteran defence lawyer was removed today from her job defending a Canadian accused of helping to murder a friend's family after she allegedly was seen having sex with her client.

County Superior Court Judge Charles Martel said the incident had delayed a pre-trial conference scheduled for Wednesday. He asked The Defender Association to talk with Sebastian Burns about the incident and appoint another lawyer to Burns' case.

Burns and Atif Rafay, high school classmates in Vancouver, have been charged with the beating deaths of Rafay's 56-year-old parents, Tariq and Sultana Rafay, and his autistic sister, Basma, 19, at their home in Bellevue, Wash., on July 12, 1994.

The pair were arrested in Canada in 1995 and fought a lengthy battle against being extradited to the United States.

They returned to the United States last year to face aggravated first-degree murder charges after U.S. authorities promised not to seek death sentences.

Jail guards at the King County Jail reported this week they discovered the sexual encounter between Theresa Olson and Burns.

Jail officials on Tuesday barred Olson from the jail because of alleged "inappropriate physical contact" with a prisoner.

Neither Olson nor Burns were in court today.

Martel said he would hold another hearing Thursday to review the jail's investigation of Olson and other legal issues.

In a statement Tuesday, jail director Steve Thompson refused to identify the lawyer involved, but said jail officials had ``concluded there was inappropriate physical contact between the attorney and prisoner."

He restricted her from the jail and filed a formal grievance with the state bar association.

Calls to Olson's office at The Defender Association, the county's largest public defence agency, were not returned.

However, Bob Boruchowitz, association director, confirmed in an e-mailed statement that "Theresa Olson has agreed to be on leave pending review of this matter.

"We should presume her innocent and remember the outstanding work she has done for so long," he added. "Theresa has been an extraordinarily dedicated public defender for 16 years."

Citing several criminal justice sources, The Seattle Times reported Tuesday that Olson was seen having intercourse with Burns in a jail conference room on Saturday.

Olson, 43, was meeting with Burns, 26, to discuss his pending trial.

Atif Rafay is not represented by Olson or her office.

Trial in the case is set for April.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Bar Association would neither confirm nor deny the existence of a complaint against Olson.

"If there were a complaint filed it would not be public," said Judy Berrett. "During the early stages of the investigation it's confidential."

The complaint could become public if investigators decide there has been an apparent violation of the association's rules of professional conduct.

Two years ago, the association adopted a rule specifically banning sex between lawyers and current clients unless the sexual relationship was already going on when the lawyer-client relationship was formed, Berrett said.

Before that rule was enacted, a male lawyer was suspended for a year under more general rules of conduct for having sex with a client, Berrett said.

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