Music producer Phil Spector (search) has hired an attorney who used to work for mob boss John Gotti to defend him on murder charges after his previous attorney resigned from the case.

Leslie Abramson (search) said Tuesday that she and her co-counsel resigned as Spector's attorneys but were taken by surprise when Bruce Cutler (search) filed a motion to take over the case while Abramson was out of the country.

"We were put in an untenable position, and we were forced to resign," Abramson said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "If we wanted to be ethical and competent, we had to resign."

She declined to elaborate.

Cutler, speaking from New York, said he has known Spector for a long time and had signed on as his personal attorney before Abramson and Marcia Morrissey took over the criminal case.

"I was engaged as Phillip's attorney and confidante last January," he said. "Leslie and Marcia were brought on in February, and they quit in July. They just jumped ship, and I had to take control of the ship and bring it into port."

Federal prosecutors in New York have portrayed Cutler as "house counsel" for the Gambino crime family. He won three trials for Gotti before prosecutors were able to get him disqualified from the defense team by playing 1990 tape recordings on which he had conversations with Gotti about other defendants.

Gotti died in prison in 2002.

Spector, famed for creating rock 'n' roll's "wall of sound" recording technique in the 1960s, is charged in the fatal shooting of Lana Clarkson at his mansion in February 2003.

Clarkson, 40, had gone home with him from the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip where she was a hostess. She was best known as the star of Roger Corman's cult film classic "Barbarian Queen."

The case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 20. Cutler said they would seek to postpone the hearing to get up to date on the proceedings.

Spector, 64, is free on $1 million bail.

Abramson was hired in February to replace Spector's original attorney, Robert Shapiro, who was a member of O.J. Simpson's defense team.