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Alum in spotlight representing 'Teen Mom'

The bright lights of TV crews aren't a usual sight in small-town North Carolina, but for Dustin R.T. Sullivan ‘06, they've almost become the norm.

Dustin SullivanSullivan, who practices with fellow ASL alum Andrew M. Snow ‘06 at Sullivan Snow Law in Bolivia, N.C., has had his share of media run-ins as attorney for Jenelle Evans of MTV's "Teen Mom 2." Evans faces numerous charges, including breaking and entering and simple assault. A video of her brawling with another young woman aired on "Good Morning America," and she has landed on the cover of several tabloids.

As Evans' attorney, Sullivan has been sought by Fox News, CNN, "Nancy Grace," "The CBS Morning Show," "Good Morning America," TMZ, "E! News," "OK Magazine," "Us Weekly," and other media outlets.

Sullivan had no idea of Evans' celebrity when she became his court-appointed client. To date, he has had three criminal charges dismissed for her with no convictions. If she successfully completes probation for a possession of drug paraphernalia charge, it will be dismissed in April 2012, he said.

The media hoopla has made Sullivan "much more careful as what I say and to whom since the media will spin any statement any way they want," he said.

After the video of the fight surfaced, he received calls from major news outlets all night and the following day. "That was an exhausting two days. I would walk out of court with 40-plus messages," he said.

Despite the hassle, the attention has led to some amusing exchanges with the media. "I have had several reporters actually assist me with providing information for my cases they gathered from their sources," he said. "I felt like I was living in a movie about Watergate. The reporter would begin, ‘OK, you did not get this information from me, but it would be very helpful to your case...' It made me want to look over my shoulder and whisper."

Sullivan has spoken with attorneys in New York who have represented high-profile clients. "They were incredibly helpful in giving me tips and answering questions. The most important advice I can give is to think about everything before you say it," he said. "Even if you think something is off record, it will probably be on some website and it typically can only draw trouble for you and your client."

The spotlight has also reinforced why Sullivan started practicing in the first place. "The media has prosecuted (Evans) after only being charged, forgetting that our system is founded on the principle of innocent until proven guilty," he said. "I enjoy reminding myself that this is exactly why I chose the path less traveled in becoming a criminal defense attorney: helping someone who has been accused of a crime when no one else will give them a chance."