Young orders attorney to appear or face contempt of court charge in Venezia wrongful death suit

Amelia Flood Jun. 3, 2010, 8:39am

BELLEVILLE -- A St. Louis attorney has been ordered to appear in a St. Clair County court room later this month or be charged with contempt of court.

Attorney James Schottel Jr. once again failed to appear at a hearing in the case of a wrongful death suit brought by the parents of a murdered 22-year-old. He has also failed to repay his clients, Michael and Cynthia Anderson the $1,600 retainer they paid him as ordered previously by St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young.

The repayment would allow Schottel to withdraw from representing the Andersons, a move he made last September.

Schottel was ordered to repay his clients by May 13 at a May 3 status conference he did not attend

The Andersons are suing the estate of convicted racketeer Thomas Venezia and Robert Staack for the wrongful death of their daughter, Jennifer.

Jennifer Anderson was found dead in the home she shared with Venezia in 2005. The 64-year-old Venezia was also dead.

Both victims were shot to death, with Jennifer Anderson killed by a gunshot wound to the back of the head.

The deaths were ruled a murder-suicide by the Belleville Police Department.

The Andersons allege that Staack negligently gave the gun to Venezia who was suffering from ill-health and emotional issues.

The suit was filed in 2007. However, neither defendant has been served to date in the case.

The suit was dismissed in September 2008 but reinstated.

Schottel asked to withdraw from the suit last September citing staffing issues at his office and his wheel-chair bound status.

After several hearings dates passed without Schottel attending, Young allowed him to withdraw pending his repayment of the $1,600 retainer in December 2009.

Schottel then filed a motion asking Young to reconsider.

Via telephone conference Jan. 20 of this year, Young declined to reconsider and ordered Schottel to pay.

Schottel then filed a motion asking for leave to file a writ of mandamus with the state Supreme Court. If granted, that writ would have required Young to allow Schottel to keep the retainer.

The Supreme Court rejected Schottel's plea March 2.

Schottel did not appear May 3 and Young signed an ordered that required the repayment by May 13 or Schottel to show cause at the June 3 hearing.

Schottel now has until 9:30 a.m. June 30 to appear in Young's courtroom or he will be charged with contempt of court.

Local counsel for the Andersons, William Berry appeared Thursday and drafted the order for Young's signature.

Although no attorneys have entered appearances for the defendants, at the May 3 hearing Belleville attorney Timothy Wiltsie asked from the gallery that Young throw out the case. Wiltsie did not enter an appearance and refused to say whom he represented when questioned by the judge.

Wiltsie has not subsequently entered an appearance nor did he attend the June 3 status conference.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 07-L-359

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