The Get: George Laughrun
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - He is the man people call when they find themselves in trouble in Charlotte. When ex-Carolina Panther Kerry Collins faced a DWI, he called him. When Charlotte priest Robert Yurgel was accused and convicted of sex crimes, he called him.
When local police officers find themselves on the wrong side of the law, they call him. Everyone who's anyone has heard the name of attorney George Laughrun. "It's flattering, it's really flattering. It's extremely humbling," says Laughrun.
Laughrun comes from humble beginnings. He grew up in east Charlotte. The son of a school teacher and a pharmacy tech, he had a working class childhood, a far cry from the plush south Charlotte home he shares with his wife now. He graduated from Garinger High School and then App State and almost didn't become an attorney.
He says he was repeatedly rejected by law schools. And just before he threw in the towel and went to business school, Laughrun took the advice of a mentor and applied to the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Alabama. He was accepted, graduated, and worked in Alabama as an assistant District Attorney for just over two years before coming home to Charlotte.
Laughrun's first job back in town was under Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist. And then, criminal defense came calling. "When I was in criminal law in law school, they said, if the Devil walks into your office, he's entitled to a defense. It may be unpopular, it may be trying to pull teeth to find a defense, but the worst of the worst are entitled to a defense," says Laughrun.
In 1999, Laughrun was retained by then Carolina Panther Rae Carruth to defend the pro-athlete against murder charges, but was later dropped from the case. Speculation was rampant, but Laughrun says the decision was cut and dry: "They (the Carruth family) couldn't afford to pay at that point for a first degree murder defense." Carruth was convicted. He'll get out of prison in four years.
In 2009, another Carolina Panther went to Laughrun for help. Jon Beason hired the attorney to defend him in a civil suit against a man who claimed Beason assaulted him. Laughrun won the case for Beason. He says it was incredible to work on and compares it to a high profile case he's working on now. "You know, I thought when I did Jon's trial, you know, that was kinda like the World Series because, you know, you had a great client to work with, great facts, great case to try, then you get this case which is more national attention, it's kinda like the Super Bowl times two. It's a rush to be asked to represent somebody like Wes."
Wes Kerrick: a white CMPD officer accused of unjustly shooting and killing an unarmed black man. The case is expected to go to trial in 2015. Laughrun says the workload is unlike anything has he ever seen. He says, "We got about 6,000 pages of documents to go through."
It's time intensive, and Laughrun says time is what it's all about. His reputation as one of Charlotte's go-to defense attorneys for the famous and infamous came at a cost. He says, "The thing that I'm blessed with is my wife. She did a hell of a job with our kids. She let me do all [of my work], missing recitals, missing soccer practices, missing cheerleading. She was there for all of that. She kinda (did) double duty as mom and dad."
The 58-year-old doesn't participate in social media and prefers letters to email. He says he is an old school attorney, firmly against advertising, saying, "I think it cheapens the profession." Laughrun wants his legacy to be that he treats clients fairly, fights a good fight, and returns people's phone calls. He says, "It's still fun to come to work every day. I haven't had a vacation since maybe the mid 90s. I never take any time off. It's fun to come to work every day."
This year marks Laughrun's 34th as a practicing attorney. He says he'd like to one day practice with his kids. His daughter is an attorney in Charlotte, too, and his son is waiting for his bar exam results.