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Jury clears 1 of 3 lawyers in fen-phen trial

COVINGTON, Ky. - A federal jury acquitted one attorney Tuesday of defrauding clients in a diet-drug settlement, but was sent back to deliberate on two others.

Jurors acquitted Melbourne Mills, 77, of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The panel was given instructions to keep considering the case against attorneys William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr., who face the same charge.

The three were accused of conspiring to defraud clients out of $65 million in a settlement involving the diet drug fen-phen. The case caught the attention of the horse industry because Gallion and Cunningham were the original owners of 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin. They have since sold an 80-percent share of the horse.

The verdict on Mills came in the sixth day of deliberations, just after jurors sent a note to the judge saying that they could not reach a unanimous verdict on all the defendants.

Mills' attorney, Jim Shuffett, said he was pleased, but said he couldn't pinpoint what part of his defense had swayed the jury.

'Whatever it was, it sure worked,' Shuffett said.

Mills still faces a civil lawsuit from 414 former clients in state court. Gallion and Cunningham are also defendants in that case. A state judge previously ordered the three men to pay $42 million to their former clients and said a trial will be held at a yet-to-be-set date to determine any punitive damages.

Shuffett said the verdict won't likely directly impact the civil case but added, 'It can't hurt.'