This has been “a week”. A good “week”… but a “week” nonetheless. Actually, more appropriately, I should say it’s been a “two and a half years”… and technically we are not done yet, but the Sword of Damocles has been removed. (Thank God.)
For those of you who are not aware, the Law Offices of Lieberman and Taormina have been representing a soldier down in San Diego who was arrested for a crime he did not commit.
I don’t say that lightly.
This is not defense advocacy trying to shine a light most favorable on our client. This guy is 100% stone-cold innocent. Worse… he is a good guy. A soldier’s soldier, and solid husband and father. He was attacked in San Diego and used reasonable, measured force to defend himself during that attack.
We were asked by his command to provide him legal services and he sort of became our “cause celebre”. We decided early on to handle this case pro bono, which for him was a good thing, since we have probably poured easily over a hundred grand in hours into this thing.
Last week we finally had a trial scheduled. Well… the trial did not happen. We did, however, “win”, and our client is no longer in any danger of losing his liberty, his military career, or his family for that matter. The case will not be completely resolved until December of this year, but he is now free from the constant fear he would be going away for seven years. We consider this to be a major win for us. (Incidentally, it also keeps our win rate at 100%!)
I cannot really talk about the particulars of this case until it has been completely resolved in December… so we will table this for now, save for the fact that everyone is extremely happy.
It also sets the tone, for the real story behind this blog… personal branding, and being the person you want to be or, at the very least, the person you want the world to think you are.
As we left the courthouse, the LTC (Cosmo has just been promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel), our client (the SGT), as well as myself were both elated and exhausted. After consuming a hamburger and beer at a local tavern next to the courthouse we decided it would be entirely appropriate to find a cigar lounge and have a celebratory smoke. (The LTC had brought along a few 15-year-old Cubans for a victory smoke… hoping and praying we would actually get to have a victory smoke.)
A quick Yelp search yielded a place in downtown San Diego called Cigars and Coffee. Because why not have a cigar lounge where you can get a cup of joe?
Turns out that Cigars and Coffee is a sort of makeshift establishment. It originated as a cigar factory and decided to add on a smoking lounge. They wanted to serve booze, but could not get a liquor license. So… they decided to sell coffee and pastries instead. Oh yeah… and hookahs as well.
The place looks like a Starbucks that is all grown up.
We walked in and took a seat on a couple of couches and surveyed the other patrons in the establishment. There was a couple sitting at a table working on their laptops and sharing a hookah in one corner. A solitary gentleman was lounging on a couch and smoking a cigar while he scrolled through his phone. Then… towards the back of the lounge I saw them, or more specifically, him.
Two men were sitting next to each other, smoking cigars, and paying close attention to everyone who was in the lounge as well. One was white, the other black. The white gentleman can best be described as central castings answer to a Russian gangster. He looked to be in his early fifties with a neck-long pointed beard. He was extremely well built and his muscular structure provided the perfect architecture for a series of green tattoos visible under his open- necked dress shirt. Past his red blazer, you could see the distal end of the chest tattoo peaking out of his shirt sleeve and under his Rolex watch. We now refer to this guy as “The Oligarch”.
His companion was the one who really impressed me though.
He was about six foot two, probably in his late forties or early fifties. As I mentioned earlier, he was black, dark black, and absolutely magnificent looking. I have no idea how expensive the suit he was wearing was, but it reeked of money and perfect, impeccable, tailoring. The suit was a rich blue, without being boisterous, and the crisp white shirt he wore under it was French cuffed (of course). He also had a watch on that looked like it cost about the same as the down payment on my house. In his breast pocket he had a perfectly folded white pocket square that accentuated his custom yellow tie. This was held in place by a gold tie bar absolutely parallel to the floor.
He moved his left hand where he held his cigar to his mouth with conscious precision as he evaluated our group. A small nod of his head showed that he acknowledged our presence with an understanding that our interest in him and his companion was entirely reasonable.
Eventually the two stood up and headed towards us.
The Oligarch spoke first: “Did we hear that you guys were down here for a trial?”
“Yes,” I said standing up.
“How did it go?”
“We won. Thank you. My name is Steven.”
“Michael,” the Oligarch said reaching for my hand.
“JB,” the Magnificent One said with a quiet confidence.
“I see you are smoking Cuban Partagas?” JB continued.
The LTC jumped into the conversation… “Yes! My father bought them for me a number of years ago. I am impressed you could recognize them.”
“They are quite good, I agree. I spend about half of my time in Miami and am quite familiar with them.”
JB bowed his head slightly and said, “Congratulations on your win.” The Oligarch smiled in agreement. “Enjoy your time in San Diego.”
While the Oligarch had the body of a fighter, JB had the body of an athlete. He was muscular and athletic without looking like someone who was fixated on having “show muscles.” He looked the way he did, simply because it enhanced his image and clearly was consistent with the way he felt about himself. His body, his clothing, his demeanor, and his manners all elicited a single thought in me: discipline.
To cultivate this image into a lifestyle did not come about through a casual decision; it was the culmination of years of disciplined training, research, practice and work… and it showed.
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. JB does not need that second chance. His image was cultivated, and through that image he projected power, but through his eyes and his interest in us, he projected warmth.
That is important.
While the Oligarch definitely evidenced power… maybe even scary power… JB projected warmth, and because of that he naturally drew us to him.
As they left, the three of us sat back down on the couches and puffed on our cigars.
“Wow,” said our client.
“I would love to know the story behind those two,” said the LTC.
“No… the mystery is what makes them so entertaining.” I said chuckling.
We all have decisions to make, from how we dress, to how we stand, to how we engage with others. Like the Japanese Tea Ceremony when it is done with passion, with conscious attention to details… with discipline… everyone takes notice.