Andre the Giant

Michael Andre was larger than life -- even in death.

By the night of February 23, everyone in Denver knew who Michael Andre was. For eight hours, the popular criminal defense attorney had been enmeshed in a standoff with police SWAT units that ended when Andre was found dead in his Cherry Creek townhome, killed by an apparently self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

The 38-year-old was most recently in the news for representing Willie Clark, a man whom police had pegged as a possible source of information on the unsolved murder of Denver Bronco Darrent Williams. But within certain circles, Andre was best known as Denver's top lawyer for the high-end escort industry.

Andre could often be spotted in the hallways of the Denver County Courthouse wearing a pricey suit along with a tight-fitting black beanie on his head. With his gregarious smile and hyperactive conversation, he gave off a presence that was closer to an ever-cool, quick-witted street hustler than a stereotypical sleazy lawyer. It was this persona that perhaps ingratiated Andre with so many in the underground adult entertainment business, where legality is a fog that must be navigated.

"In the adult industry, you're either cool or you're not; you smell like a cop or you don't," says one local escort-world insider. "People are pretty good at ferreting it out. For a lawyer, he was pretty trusted. There's a level of honesty that these women were definitely responding to, because there's so much judgment around what they do."

One full-time escort, Genella, who kept Andre on retainer, says that many sex workers in the city are now going to have to look for new representation. "He had such a reputation," she says.

Some of the larger agencies in town, which might employ up to two dozen escorts at any time, would even ask Andre to do classes and legal briefings for new girls. "You know -- what our rights are, laws, how to behave," Genella says. "He was very, very good at looking out for all of us. He was cool like that. He really liked being the go-to guy."

After attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, Andre began practicing law independently in 1996 and by the end of the decade had established his niche among X-rated businesses. That helped him score his first high-profile case in 2002, defending ex-stripper and then-Georgetown mayor Koleen Brooks against charges that she had falsely reported an attack against herself to gain sympathy in a recall election.

The Virginia native has also turned up in several Westword stories: once as the lawyer who would regularly get call-girl kingpin Gary Haney out of trouble until the "big daddy" got addicted to meth ("Big Trouble," February 23, 2006), and once for handling the legal duties of Scottie Ewing, the former pro skier turned swinger-club owner ("Swap Talk," June 22, 2006).

Colorado Springs attorney Robert Barron remembers Andre best for his willingness to help other lawyers, something he experienced firsthand when the two collaborated on a narcotics case in the late 1990s. "He would always make time for another attorney," Barron says. "And sad to say, you just don't find too much of that in this day and age. I seriously doubt that I was the only attorney that he helped and mentored."

Friends say it wasn't uncommon for the lawyer to waive legal fees of penniless clients in exchange for handy work at residential properties he owned in the city.

It was no wonder that some of his most devoted companions were current and former clients.

Mike McGinley, a local contractor and onetime self-described "career criminal" says that he became good buddies with Andre after the lawyer helped him through some legal difficulties. On the day of Andre's death, the two were scheduled to have lunch at the Diamond Cabaret, the upscale strip club where Andre's 24-year-old wife, Marie, works as a dancer. McGinley says he knew the two were having marital difficulties, but he never thought his friend was so distressed. McGinley was one of several friends who maintained a vigil around the attorney's house during the standoff. When he finally heard the news, he wept on the sidewalk.

"There was a lot more than just legal representation with Michael Andre," McGinley says. "He always left people in better shape than they were."

 
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