City hired prominent lawyer to rep top Fresno lawmaker in criminal case, docs say.

The city of Fresno hired a prominent criminal defense attorney to defend the City Council president in a criminal case, records show.

Nelson Esparza faces two criminal counts based on an alleged conversation in April with then-City Attorney Douglas Sloan. The Fresno District Attorney’s Office charged Esparza with one felony count of attempted extortion and a misdemeanor count of violating the city charter. If Esparza is convicted, he faces a maximum of three years in prison.

In a contract finalized Wednesday, Mark Coleman — recognized as a top trial lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers — will receive $350 an hour plus expenses. An associate attorney will be paid $250 an hour.

Expenses include travel costs outside of Fresno and meals. Overhead costs — such as office supplies and research software — are not covered.

Esparza is scheduled for arraignment on Tuesday, Sept. 20, in front of Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jon Kapetan.

Neither Esparza nor Coleman immediately responded to a request for comment.

Coleman most recently represented former congressman TJ Cox at his arraignment for dozens of federal fraud and campaign fraud charges last month. It is unclear if Coleman will continue to represent Cox.

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.