SANTA MARIA, Calif. – When pop impresario Phil Spector (search) faces the music at his murder trial, his lawyer will be longtime Gotti mouthpiece Bruce Cutler.
Spector has hired the flamboyant New York defense attorney to replace high-profile California lawyer Leslie Abramson. She, in turn, had replaced Spector's original lawyer and close friend, Robert Shapiro.
Cutler yesterday filed the necessary paperwork with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Carlos Urganga to take over Spector's defense.
As an out-of-state attorney he is required to get the judge's permission to represent him in the case.
Spector is accused of fatally shooting blond B-movie actress Lana Clarkson (search) in his Alhambra mansion in February 2003. He claims the 41-year-old woman "kissed the gun" and committed suicide.
"I think I can help him," Cutler said. "He has confidence in me, and I have confidence in his innocence."
Cutler, who regularly visited mob boss John Gotti (search) in prison until his death two years ago, would not say how he and Spector hooked up.
"We picked each other," he said. "I've been with him as his personal lawyer and his confidante since late January....I want to help him."
Cutler said that last month he served as Spector's "personal advisor" when the Grammy-winning music man appeared at a status conference on his case.
He said he expected to be formally confirmed as Spector's lawyer at the next status conference on Sept. 14.
He noted that his involvement will delay the case. "We need to go over a lot of material," he explained.
Cutler said he will work with Los Angeles lawyer Roger Rosen in representing Spector, 63, who is currently free on $1 million bail.
If convicted, Spector faces life in prison.
Abramson, who is apparently being dumped by Spector, is best known for her defense of brothers Eric and Lyle Menendez (search) for the execution-style murder of their parents.
Shapiro, her predecessor as Spector's criminal lawyer, is best known for representing O.J. Simpson at his criminal trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson.