“Frankly,” says Donald Etra, the attorney for suspended USC cornerback Josh Shaw, “I don’t think there’s anything left for me to do.”
One week ago Etra, a high-profile Los Angeles–based criminal defense attorney, strode into USC’s athletic administration building, Heritage Hall, accompanying Shaw. It was then and there that the Trojan senior and recently elected team captain confessed, through Etra, that his tale of a heroic rescue of his 7-year-old nephew in a swimming pool was “a complete fabrication.”
USC promptly suspended Shaw, a Palmdale, California native, indefinitely. Head coach Steve Sarkisian has remained mum on the conditions for a potential Shaw return, other than to say that “there are some other things that have to take place.… When the time is right—and if the time is right—to bring him back, we will.”
Speaking by phone to Newsweek on Tuesday, Etra maintained that whatever the circumstances that caused Shaw to “fall” from a balcony railing at the Orsini Apartment Complex in Los Angeles on the evening of Saturday, August 23, criminal activity had no role. “There have been no criminal charges against Mr. Shaw,” said Etra, “nor do I imagine any criminal charges being filed in the future.”
When Shaw retained Etra as legal counsel early last week, eyebrows lifted. Etra, after all, is a high-profile criminal defense attorney whose past clients include Snoop Dogg, Rihanna and Fran Drescher. According to Etra, “a mutual acquaintance referred [Josh] to me.” Etra would not elaborate on who that acquaintance is other than to confirm that it is not anyone the general public might know, a.k.a. Snoop Dogg, who is a familiar face on the USC sidelines. When asked if he is working for Shaw pro bono, Etra replied, “No. I have been paid for Mr. Shaw.”
What comes next is a mystery. No. 14–ranked USC, which slammed Fresno State, 52-13, in its season opener last Saturday in Sarkisian’s debut as head coach, travels up the coast to meet No. 13 Stanford. The school has not specifically outlined terms for Shaw’s return, although Sarkisian and athletic director Pat Haden, himself a former Trojan quarterback, might want Shaw to come clean about how he injured both ankles.
Shaw, who resides in the Orsini Apartments, is still enrolled and taking classes at USC, where the fall term began on August 25—the same day USC released the story of how he leapt from a balcony to save his nephew from drowning. “Mr. Shaw’s fondest wish is for him to return to USC and represent the school on the football field,” says Etra, “but first his ankles need to heal.”
Will the Trojans make a second leap of faith with Shaw? A TMZ report quoted a USC teammate as saying, “We’re done with him.” Sources report that it was Shaw’s own teammates who confronted him about the lie and shared that information with third parties, who in turn contacted USC and alerted them to the ruse. Shaw may not be in need of Etra’s help in a courtroom any time soon, but he may be in dire need of some wise counsel.
“If Josh asks me for advice,” says Etra, who speaks to Shaw every day, “of course I’m happy to offer my advice on anything.”