Published October 18, 2011
A high-profile attorney, with offices in New York and Italy who is now representing a Missouri couple searching for their missing 10-month-old daughter, is refusing to divulge who is paying for his services while insisting his clients are innocent of any wrongdoing.
Joe Tacopina, a former New York City prosecutor who represented the prime suspect in Natalee Holloway's disappearance in Aruba, confirmed to FoxNews.com early Tuesday that he is not working pro bono while representing Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin in the search for Lisa Irwin, who has been missing since Oct. 4.
Tacopina declined to indicate how much he is being paid or by whom, but stressed that the Missouri couple -- who recently told Fox News they could not afford to pay their cellphone bills -- are cooperating with authorities in the case and are innocent of any wrongdoing.
"This is a mother's worst nightmare," Tacopina told a reporter following an appearance on Fox News. "There is absolutely no evidence pointing to their guilt."
Tacopina -- who has also represented late pop icon Michael Jackson, actor Lillo Brancato and an NYPD cop acquitted of raping a fashion executive -- traveled to Kansas City, Mo., on Monday to meet with Bradley and Irwin.
"In my mind, there is no question they had nothing to do with the disappearance of their little girl," Tacopina told reporters. "I'm optimistic and confident at the end of the day the truth will come out and speculation will be put to rest."
Stressing that the couple "has nothing to hide," Tacopina said he has advised the girl's parents to stop speaking to reporters.
"The goal is to find that baby girl," Tacopina said Tuesday.
Tacopina was joined by private investigator Bill Stanton during his appearance on Fox News. Stanton reiterated that a $100,000 reward for information leading to the girl or to a conviction remains in place. He also declined to indicate who is paying for his services.
Deborah Bradley's cousin, Michael Larette, has said that he and Lisa's parents chose Tacopina because he came highly recommended by several people, including Stanton, a New York-based private investigator who has been working with Bradley's family.
On Sunday, Missouri National Guard officials joined the search for Lisa Irwin as the girl's mother told Fox News she was drunk when the baby disappeared. Bradley told Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Sunday that she had "several glasses" of wine -- perhaps as many as 10 -- with a neighbor prior to the girl's disappearance.
Bradley also admitted she last saw her daughter at 6:40 p.m. local time on Oct. 4, not 10:30 p.m. as she had originally told investigators.
Bradley said it was possible she blacked out after drinking, but denied that anything could have happened to Lisa while she was drunk. She said she drank about twice a week when her children were asleep and denied having a drinking problem.
"I don't see the problem with me having grownup time," she told Kelly.
Authorities and FBI officials launched new searches for the girl on Monday, including the drainage of a nearby creek. Investigators also brought tracking dogs to the yard of the home where the girl's parents have been staying since she was reported missing.
Sean O'Brien, associate professor of law at University of Missouri-Kansas City, said it was difficult to read anything into Bradley's remarks about her drinking or about what police told her. But he said it was wise for the parents to hire a lawyer, and they likely should have done so earlier given what Bradley has said about police accusing her of being involved in the baby's disappearance.
"When the questioning becomes accusatory ... it's time to shut up and lawyer up," O'Brien said.
But O'Brien said that police remain the family's "best hope" of finding the baby, so Bradley would want to continue cooperating.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.