Al Avignone is a fierce litigator and expert legal strategist as evidenced by his excellent results. He has been successful in the toughest high profile criminal and civil cases across Montana and New Jersey, in both state and federal courts.
Since being admitted to practice in 1984, Mr. Avignone has successfully represented numerous defendants in high profile felony criminal cases and tried many major and complex criminal and civil trials in New Jersey and Montana. In 2003, Mr. Avignone was named the Montana criminal defense lawyer of the year by the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
But no case is too small for Mr. Avignone to handle. He will consider representing you in any criminal case from a traffic ticket to a homicide. And Mr. Avignone’s business education (MBA), together with his experience as an executive with Nabisco at its world headquarters, amply qualifies him to represent you in a business dispute or commercial litigation.
Mr. Avignone has received an AV preeminent rating in Martindale Hubbell indicating that his peers and judges believe he has achieved the highest level of professional excellence.
Mr. Avignone lives and practices law in Bozeman, Montana with his law partner and wife, Lisa Banick. Al and Lisa are avid alpine skiers and fly fishers. They can often be spotted skiing the powder of the local ski area, Bridger Bowl, or wading and fishing one of the many blue ribbon trout streams located around Bozeman.
Mr. Avignone served as lead counsel in the Montana capital case State v. Michael Spell. Spell was charged with deliberate homicide arising out of the kidnapping and murder of a popular high school teacher in January 2012, in Sidney, MT. The defense fought to eliminate the death penalty pursuant to the US Supreme Court ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, which banned the execution of an intellectually disabled person. After two years of litigation the prosecution conceded the issue and abandoned its efforts to seek the death penalty. In May 2015, Mr. Spell was sentenced pursuant to a plea agreement making him eligible for parole when he is forty-seven years old.
In State v. Soule, Mr. Avignone’s client was charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol. After three years of forceful litigation, in December 2014, the district court issued a 67-page order granting defense motions and dismissing the case with prejudice.
U.S. v. Weber was a high-profile federal capital case featured on the TV show America’s Most Wanted. Weber was charged with murdering three Florence (MT) women in November 2001. Prosecutors alleged Weber committed the grisly murders to collect a debt for a drug enterprise. The defense eventually persuaded the U.S. Attorney General to not seek the death penalty. Subsequently, the defense persuaded the court to dismiss all drug charges. After two years of aggressive litigation, in January 2010, the government conceded that largely due to defense efforts, it could not prove its case and all murder charges were dismissed.
Mr. Avignone served as lead counsel in the MT capital case, State v. LeBrum. LeBrum is a former football player for Montana State University who was charged with deliberate homicide. The LeBrum case received national attention with articles published in the Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated. The defense persuaded the Montana Supreme Court to bar the death penalty because the State failed to comply with notice requirements. The defense succeeded in suppressing LeBrum’s confession to the police. This resulted in the case being resolved in 2008 by a plea agreement dismissing the murder charge, LeBrum being convicted of robbery only, and the dismissal of a federal indictment charging LeBrum with various felony drug offenses.
In September 2003, Mr. Avignone served as lead counsel in State v. Warren (MT). Warren was a highly publicized rape case in Bozeman involving complex issues concerning DNA analysis. Warren was charged with Rape and Aggravated Burglary. After a trial that spanned two weeks, the jury returned not guilty verdicts on all counts.
Other significant cases handled by Mr. Avignone include:
- In re J.E. (MT), (deliberate homicide), defense successfully opposed State’s efforts to transfer the case of the 13-year-old defendant to adult court. Defendant was released from custody at age 18.
- State v. K.M. and State v. S.K. (MT), both defendants charged with rape, both cases concluded with the rape charges dismissed and both defendants pled to misdemeanor charges.
- State v. Weldy (MT), Weldy was convicted of felony assault at trial but his conviction was reversed on appeal by the MT Supreme Court.
- State v. Kerin (MT), (felony evidence tampering), defense motion to dismiss granted.
- State v. Madsen (MT), (felony mistreatment of a prisoner), charge reduced to a misdemeanor that was deferred and dismissed.
- State v. Zecca (NJ), weeklong trial of security guard charged with assault on patron during NJ Devils hockey game (jury - not guilty all felony counts).
- State v. Alston (NJ), armed robbery (jury - not guilty all counts).
- State v. Rice (NJ), defendant charged in shooting (jury - not guilty all counts).
- State v. Attorney X (NJ), attorney charged with rape (case resolved by plea agreement for five years at a treatment center).
Criminal Defense; Civil Litigation; Business Law; DUI; DWI.
1984, New Jersey and U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey; 1991, Montana; 1995, U.S. District Court, District of Montana; 2001, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit; 2008, U.S. Supreme Court
Rutgers University Law School, J.D., 1984
Montclair State University, B.A., 1971; Seton Hall University, M.S., 1976; Fairleigh Dickinson University, M.B.A., 1980
State Bar of Montana; State Bar of New Jersey; National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Life Member); Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Founding Lifetime Member; President, 2009); CJA Panel, Montana
Graduate: Justice J. Brennan, Jr., Inn of Court (Trial Lawyer Program, 1987-1989); Prosecutor, Orange, NJ, 1985-1988; New Jersey Supreme Court District Ethics Committee, 1991-1992; Gallatin County Public Defender, 1994-1996; Montana Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year, 2003; State and federal court approved for appointment in capital cases.