He is past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and during a career of more than 40 years has represented accused killers Ira Einhorn, Amanda Knox, and Robert Durst.

But on Thursday, Center City lawyer Theodore Simon, 65, was in a Philadelphia courtroom as the accuser.

The case was Commonwealth v. Rico Clark - the defendant being a 27-year-old Norristown man accused of picking a rubber-banded wad of cash from the pocket of Simon's suit jacket and leading him on a foot chase that ended with Clark's arrest several blocks away.

"I can't recall this ever happening to me, so I was kind of surprised," Simon told Municipal Court Judge Joffie C. Pittman III during Clark's preliminary hearing.

Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Martin Howley, Simon said he had been killing time after 3 p.m. June 8, waiting for clothing alterations in preparation for a trip to Louisville for Muhammad Ali's funeral. Simon said he had met Ali years earlier through Ali's lawyer and had become a family friend.

As he walked out of his office at 1600 Market St., a security guard showed him an Ali commemorative edition of USA Today, Simon said, and he decided to pick up some copies for the Ali family.

Simon said he walked to the newsstand at the southwest corner of 17th and Market Streets, bought four copies, handed the dealer a $20 bill, and waited for change.

It was then, Simon testified, that he felt "pressure" in his jacket pocket, reached in, and grabbed a hand holding his wad of cash, attached to Clark's arm.

The men tussled over the wad of cash before the pickpocket broke free and ran south on 17th with Simon in pursuit, yelling, "Stop the man in the brown shirt, he stole my wallet!"

"I was gaining on him," Simon testified.

The thief turned east on Chestnut, Simon said, and as he followed, he called to two bicycle officers, who went in pursuit. Clark was stopped by police at 16th Street and Chestnut.

Simon underwent minimal grilling by Rebecca Robinson, the assistant public defender representing Clark, who verified that Simon could identify Clark, was not injured, and got his money back.

Simon said that police returned the cash - it also included some blank checks and documents - and that he has had the torn jacket pocket repaired. He said he returned to the newsstand the next day, and his change and papers were waiting for him.

Clark was held for trial on charges of robbery, theft, and receiving stolen property. He was being held Thursday on $25,000 bail, and also faces charges in another state.

Simon said afterward that he found this particular courtroom experience unsettling: "I'm a defense attorney. I can't help feeling bad for this guy."

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