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British Au Pair Fires Lawyer

June 2, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ Elaine Whitfield Sharp seemed like one of British au pair Louise Woodward’s biggest supporters.

She was an attorney who hugged her client tight as Ms. Woodward was convicted of killing an infant in her care. She opened her home to the teen to wait out appeals, and ardently defended Ms. Woodward’s innocence to anyone who questioned it.

But Ms. Woodward has fired Ms. Whitfield Sharp amid reports the attorney told a state trooper she now believes her client is guilty.

In a statement Monday, her three other lawyers _ Harvey Silverglate, Andrew Good and Barry Scheck _ said Ms. Woodward accepted their recommendation ``to immediately dismiss attorney Sharp as one of her counsel, and a letter of dismissal has been sent.″

Ms. Woodward, now 20, moved out of Ms. Whitfield Sharp’s home two months ago.

The trooper who arrested Ms. Whitfield Sharp on drunken-driving charges last week said the lawyer told him she now believes the former au pair _ who was convicted in the killing of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen _ is guilty.

Ms. Whitfield Sharp denied making the comments and in turn accused State Police Trooper Randy Cipoletta of making sexual advances toward her and of having a vendetta against her.

``We do not believe that Trooper Cipoletta is an extortionist and a liar, any more than we believe that Ms. Woodward is a murderer and a liar,″ the attorneys said in the statement.

``The evidence of Ms. Woodward’s innocence, fully known and understood by attorney Sharp as by the three of us, is as compelling now as it was before attorney Sharp’s arrest.″

Paul Barrow, the Woodward family’s British lawyer, said Ms. Whitfield Sharp’s alleged comments constituted an ``absolutely gross breach of client confidentiality ... irrespective of what was said _ which we regard as complete rubbish.″

A call to Ms. Whitfield Sharp’s home was answered by her husband, Dan Sharp, also a lawyer, who declined to comment to The Associated Press.

A jury convicted Ms. Woodward last fall of second-degree murder, but Judge Hiller Zobel reduced the verdict to manslaughter and sentenced her to the 279 days in prison she had served since her February 1997 arrest.

Her defense lawyers argued the child died of injuries that occurred weeks before the baby was rushed to the hospital.

She has been ordered to stay in Massachusetts while defense lawyers and prosecutors appeal the verdict.

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