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SAN DIEGO At Large

High Court Closes Book on Colorful Legal Career

March 31, 1989|ANTHONY PERRY

The California Supreme Court has quietly ended one of San Diego County's more clamorous legal careers.

The court this month upheld the disbarment of Frank George Prantil, a well-known attorney and aspiring politician before being convicted of perjury and forgery charges and spending 14 months in prison.

"At one time, he was considered one of the county's top defense attorneys," said attorney Eugene Iredale, who once represented Prantil. "Somehow his life just fell apart on him."

Now living outside Sacramento, the 51-year-old Prantil said he was "devastated" by the court's rejection of his plea that he was unfairly convicted. And he repeated his oft-made accusation that he was victimized because of his maverick ways.

"I'm a victim of the war on drugs," Prantil said. "The prosecutors and the courts can't stand it when someone insists that all defendants have rights."

In nearly two decades as a practicing attorney, the San Diego native was never far from the headlines. He won several high-publicity felony cases and big-money damage suits. He defended a San Diego councilman indicted in the Yellow Cab scandal.

Reporters loved his flamboyant rhetoric (he favored Shakespeare and the classics) and brash attire (he wore an American flag tie to court). His practice boomed. He moved from East County to a comfortable spread in La Jolla.

But there were also political defeats, angry public disputes, money problems and his final slide into Vacaville state prison. He concedes now that alcohol and marijuana played a role in his difficulties.

He lost races for Congress (1968), district attorney (1970) and El Cajon Municipal Court (1978). The County Bar Assn. branded him as unqualified. The State Bar in 1979 suspended him for six months for misusing a client's money.

He was convicted in 1983 of forgery and perjury in a case involving a bogus $53,000 check and, in 1986, of being an accessory to a cocaine conspiracy. Released from prison in 1987, Prantil says he will never return to San Diego County: "They rode me out on a rail."

He says that Deputy Dist. Atty. Bob Sullivan had a vendetta against him. Sullivan says that's bunk and notes that two juries convicted Prantil on a number of counts.

From his self-imposed exile, Prantil tries not to dwell on how far he has fallen. "I used to believe in ultimate justice," he said. "I don't anymore."

A Winning T-Shirt

The decision by a New York judge to hijack the America's Cup to New Zealand because Dennis Conner sailed a catamaran could deprive San Diego businesses of an expected $1.2 billion bonanza from a 1991 defense in local waters.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a way to make a buck off the cup.

T-shirts protesting the judge's decision will go on sale today in 14 San Diego County outlets of Pacific Eyes and T's, the Sorrento Valley-based T-shirt and sunglasses chain.

The new shirts show a Conner-like catamaran with a large screw through it, and a kiwi bird laughing at the sight. Price: $10.

Pacific Eyes and T's has long backed Conner against pirate-banker Michael Fay. During the September races it sold shirts saying "No Way Fay", and "Throw Another Kiwi on the Barbie."

A Well-Done Roast

In Pete Wilson's latter years as mayor of San Diego, it was said he had two goals: to learn to sing and to become governor.

He took lessons and can manfully handle a tune. The second goal eluded him, and he settled for the U. S. Senate. Now, he's trying to rectify that with his third try at the governorship, with his likely Democratic foe being Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp.

Thursday night the Republican Wilson was among those roasting Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) at a benefit dinner in Oakland.

He joked that he wasn't surprised to find picketers carrying signs urging him to stay in the Senate. What did surprise him, he said, was that one of the signs was carried by Van de Kamp.

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