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A jury has ordered Siegfried & Jensen, one of the state's most prominent law firms, to pay nearly $6 million to a former partner who claimed he was cheated out of profits from the firm over several years.

Preston Handy quit the firm in August 2012 and filed a lawsuit against the firm soon after, claiming the founders of the firm, Mitch Jensen and Ned Siegfried, diverted money out of the firm into various other companies in order to avoid paying Handy a 20 percent share of the firm's profits.

"Mr. Siegfried and Mr. Jensen were fully aware of these [fiduciary] obligations, but Mr. Siegfried and Mr. Jensen had another idea than to treat Mr. Handy fairly," Jefferson Gross, Handy's attorney, told jurors in opening arguments in the case. "They operated the law firm, so they took out all of the profits without sharing them with Mr. Handy. And … they did not disclose their schemes to Mr. Handy and provided insufficient, false and misleading information to Mr. Handy."

Siegfried and Jensen's attorney, Karra Porter, argued that there were no schemes or self-dealing. Instead, the founders of the firm took less money than they agreed to for years in order to pay Handy what he demanded, she argued, and Handy's estimates of how much he was owed were wildly inflated.

The lawsuit was sealed by 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy but audio tapes of the trial were released by the court.

The jury sided with Handy, awarding Handy $5.9 million in damages — $4.7 million in compensatory damages and another $1.2 million in punitive damages ­­ — at the culmination of the lengthy trial that concluded earlier this month.

On top of that, Handy's lawyers are seeking $2.1 million in attorney fees for the case.

The bulk of the money awarded to Handy ­— $3.6 million — stemmed from a buy-sell agreement signed when Handy became a shareholder in the firm, where Siegfried and Jensen agreed to essentially buy out Handy's interest in the firm.

In addition, there was nearly $1 million in additional damages stemming from money jurors decided Siegfried and Jensen hid from Handy.

For example, Handy's attorneys argued that Siegfried and Jensen more than doubled the amount of rent the firm paid to a company Siegfried and Jensen owned; they paid themselves for appearing in television advertisements; they had the firm extend hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans; and they received gifts of $80,000 each from an associate who worked on a major pharmaceutical case with them, a payment that Handy's lawyer called a kickback.

There was also a brief mention of Siegfried and Jensen's connections with former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. Siegfried acknowledged on the stand that Shurtleff's daughter worked at the firm at a time Siegfried &Jensen landed a major contract with the state to sue major drug companies.

The firm was also a major donor to Shurtleff's political campaigns over the years.

Shurtleff has pleaded not guilty to multiple criminal charges, including allegations of accepting prohibited gifts. None of the criminal counts involve his relationship with Siegfried & Jensen.

Twitter: @RobertGehrke