On the Town

Shortly before George Haslett Jr. died last month at the age of 84, he let family members know he wanted to do so without any publicity, and you can see why he might have felt that way.

Toward the end there, things weren't going exactly as planned for the longtime Portland criminal defense attorney.

But there was a time, you'd better believe, when Haslett was riding high on the local legal landscape.

And to be perfectly honest, he's probably not the only member of the local bar who's devoted too much time and energy to drinking, gambling and just general all-around carousing - although, to be sure, not all of them ended up getting indicted on money laundering charges, as Haslett did in 1995.

So, as the saying goes, cast the first stone if you are so inclined, and the rest of us can get on with the business of giving Haslett a proper sendoff to the next higher court.

• • •

In the first place, if you're keeping score here, you probably should know that he served with the Marines in World War II, taking back Pacific islands from the Japanese. And when his country called again a few years later, he went back in for Korea.

By my reckoning, that's two wars more than some of his severest critics ever got involved in.

And second, assuming for the moment that people accused of crimes really do deserve the best possible legal representation, it should be noted that over the course of his career, Haslett did just that for some of P-town's most colorful underworld characters.

High on that list would be former Portland crime boss Big Jim Elkins. Haslett got him off on a drug possession beef in 1966 after police, in the course of a traffic stop, found a vial of methadone in his pocket. The case went all the way to the state Supreme Court, where Haslett won the day by arguing that the evidence had been illegally obtained.

Then there was restaurateur Billy Moe, who was tried in 1971, and then again in 1979, for promoting prostitution. Moe was convicted on both occasions, and both times - wonder of wonders - placed on probation.

Whether this was due to Haslett's undoubted courtroom skills, or simply the fact that Moe's clientele included a number of high-ranking city officials, is a question we'll leave for future historians.

• • •

And, of course, there's Haslett's long-standing interest in providing legal assistance to topless dancers, or go-go dancers, as they were called back in the '60s.

If, as noted by Oregon Journal columnist Doug Baker back in those good old days, this occasionally required him to date some of the better-looking ones, who are we to quibble?

And, finally, who can forget the story of how Haslett, who frequently ran short of cash because of his penchant for games of chance, borrowed $5,000 from another one of his clients, Terry Meidel, proprietor of Ginger's Sexy Saunas.

And when, as you already may have guessed, Haslett didn't pay back the money in a timely fashion, what did Meidel do? He sent a couple of tough guys over to Haslett's office to hold him out the window by his heels.

One way or another, they always pay up.

Contact Phil Stanford by phone, 503-546-5166, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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