Ex-lawyer gets jail time for stealing from and vandalizing law firm; judge cites ‘vengeful’ sex toy purchase

A disbarred Pennsylvania lawyer was sentenced to 1½ to 3 years in prison on Wednesday for stealing from her Harrisburg law firm and vandalizing its offices after she was fired.

Judge William Tully said he had considered a lower sentence for Nichole Ashley Collins until she made statements during the sentencing hearing that he found not entirely credible, PennLive reports.

Tully also sentenced Collins to pay more than $160,000 in restitution and to five years of probation.

Collins had been accused of stealing from the firm Shaffer & Engle by writing checks for expenses she did not incur and by failing to turn over cash payments she received from clients, according to a prior PennLive story. After taking the client cash, Collins would mark the client accounts as paid in full.

She is also accused of returning to the firm after her firing, pouring what she described as Gatorade on the computers, and ordering sex toys and delivering them to an office of a former worker. Collins described the sex toy purchase as “vengeful,” according to PennLive’s coverage.

Tully appeared skeptical when Collins said she didn’t know she wasn’t allowed to return to Shaffer & Engle after her firing. He also asked several questions about why she committed the crimes and was “visibly skeptical” about her answers.

Collins attributed her crimes to financial and marital problems, a gambling addiction and a bad reaction to a drug prescribed to treat her ADHD.

Collins said she would take everything back if she could. She said she lost her job, her law license and her husband, who is a county prosecutor. “I’ve lost everything,” she said.

By Debra Cassens Weiss

via ABA Journal Daily News https://ift.tt/1jXmrxS

October 3, 2019 at 12:13PM

Lawyer Begs To Be Disbarred In Obnoxious Letter To Bar Discipline Authorities, Gets What He Wants

Please don’t kill trees, waste taxpayer resources and ODC personnel on me. ODC has no credibility or legitimacy to me. Or the drivel you generate. You are simply dishonest lawyers who do nothing to regulate dishonest lawyers. And racists to boot. Rather than wasting time, money, and paper on your sophistries, please disbar me. Disbarment by ODC would be an honor. To date, aside from competing in the triathlon world championships, my greatest honors are my PhD from UCLA and my law degree from Boalt. But a disbarment letter from ODC will be framed and go up right alongside those diplomas. Please do me the honor of disbarring me. I will be so very very proud.

— Soon-to-be disbarred attorney Glenn Stephens, in an email sent to the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, where he “unequivocally, and colorfully, sought to be disbarred,” rather than respond to or participate in any of the four discplinary matters that had been brought against him during his time investigating employment complaints at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Earlier this week, D.C. Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility happily obliged Stephens, recommending that he be “disbarred without an analysis of the merits of his case” due to his “clear request that he be disbarred.”


Staci Zaretsky

Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

via Above the Law https://abovethelaw.com

September 27, 2019 at 04:25PM

Attorney Sentenced to 30 Months’ Imprisonment for Bribing a Witness in Double Homicide Trial on Long Island

John Scarpa, Jr., a criminal defense attorney, was sentenced today in federal court in Brooklyn to 30 months’ imprisonment and fined $10,000 by United States District Judge Carol Bagley Amon for bribing a witness to commit perjury in a double homicide trial in Suffolk County Supreme Court.  Scarpa was convicted following a four-day trial in May 2019.  Scarpa, who will be disbarred, had been practicing law in New York since 1982, and was a prosecutor at three district attorneys’ offices in the metropolitan area before entering private practice in 2003.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the sentence.
 “As a defense attorney and former prosecutor, Scarpa was sworn to uphold the law he so egregiously subverted,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “Scarpa went from practicing law to breaking the law and will now pay a price for his crime.”  Mr. Donoghue thanked the Queens County District Attorney’s Office for its assistance during the investigation.
As proven at trial, Scarpa plotted with co-conspirator Charles Gallman to bribe a convicted murderer, Luis Cherry, to testify in support of Scarpa’s client, who was charged with the execution-style murders of two men.  Cherry then falsely testified at trial that he alone committed the second of the two murders, and that Scarpa’s client was innocent.  In exchange for his testimony, Scarpa and Gallman promised to help Cherry with the appeal of his own murder conviction, and to spread word in the prison system that Cherry was not a government informant.   Despite the false testimony, the trial judge found Scarpa’s client guilty of both murders.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Andrey Spektor, Lindsay K. Gerdes and Keith D. Edelman are in charge of the prosecution.
The Defendant:
JOHN SCARPA, JR.
Age:  66
Hauppauge, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-123(S-1) (CBA)

via Criminal Justice News https://ift.tt/1gA6osS

September 24, 2019 at 03:04PM

Prominent Baltimore defense lawyer indicted for allegedly aiding crimes of marijuana kingpin

By Debra Cassens Weiss

Prominent Baltimore defense lawyer Ken Ravenell has been indicted on federal charges based on allegations he helped a Jamaican marijuana kingpin and his crew members launder drug proceeds and avoid detection.

The indictment returned Wednesday charges Ravenell, 60, with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and narcotics conspiracy, according to the Baltimore Sun and a press release.

The indictment alleges Ravenell instructed crew members to “utilize certain drug couriers, to utilize specific modes of transportation and to transport shipments of drugs and money at particular times of day, all for the purpose of evading law enforcement.”

The indictment also claims Ravenell told crew members they should use payphones and prepaid phones, and should remove batteries from their phones when meeting to discuss illegal activities.

Prosecutors say Ravenell used the law firm where he was a partner in furtherance of the conspiracy, which took place between 2009 and 2014.

Some of the drug crew’s meetings were held at the law firm, and Ravenell used law firm bank accounts to launder drug money and pay lawyers representing other members of the conspiracy, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors also say Ravenell found lawyers who refused to represent cooperating witnesses to represent crew members, and required the crew members to sign retainer agreements that allowed their lawyers to withdraw from the case if the client tried to cooperate.

Ravenell obtained information about the status of the cases and whether the defendants were cooperating, and then relayed that information to other conspirators, prosecutors say. Ravenell also met with defendants in jail without permission of their lawyers and encouraged them to accept plea deals that did not include cooperation, according to the indictment.

The Baltimore Sun identified Ravenell’s former firm as the Murphy Law Firm. Since leaving the firm, Ravenell has emerged as a top defense lawyer who has handled high-profile murder cases, according to the Sun.

via ABA Journal Daily News https://ift.tt/1jXmrxS

September 21, 2019 at 12:24AM

What In The World Were These Lawyers Thinking?

It’s been a while since I’ve asked the rhetorical question (or at least to me it’s rhetorical): What were these lawyers and judges thinking? Dinosaurs will remember (and maybe millennials if they’ve seen it on YouTube) Jay Leno’s interview with British actor Hugh Grant back in 1995 on the Tonight Show. Most millennials (dinosaurs will) won’t remember that Grant was busted for lewd conduct after being caught with a prostitute in a car in Hollywood (where else?). Jay Leno asked him the question that everyone wanted to ask.

In a situation of “be careful where you point that thing,” a judge in Pennsylvania is on leave while the state investigates the judge’s shooting of her estranged husband in her house.  The judge has a restraining order against the estranged husband and the issue is whether the shooting was justified.

A former (note the use of the term) United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia was convicted of two counts of aggravated stalking of his former girlfriend. He’s scheduled to be released from prison this summer, but he will have to find another line of work. The Supreme Court of Georgia has disbarred him. Do you think there’s an anger management problem here?

Let’s add law professors to this “what were they thinking?” question. In an unbelievable mash-up of poor taste and downright unpardonable laziness, a law professor’s exam question asked his students to discuss an incident that was not only in the news, but that killed one of their classmates. You don’t think that the professor could have changed some of the facts and rewritten the question in such a way that the obviousness was not so… obvious? No wonder there’s a perception that law professors are more interested in their own work than in preparing their students for the rigors of practice. Perception equals reality and this is a perfect example. Shame on him.

Two Harvard Law School grads are duking it out in contentious litigation.  Didn’t they learn dispute resolution skills while at Harvard? The lawyers have discussed mediation, but perhaps they need some persuasion to get them to talk.

Why can’t judges just keep quiet, rather than saying inappropriate things that only get them in trouble and cause them to lose a retention election? You can’t get in trouble for not talking. This is the perfect situation of where stifling oneself would have been the right thing to do. And thank you, Your Honor, for suggesting a prostitution defendant, a so-called “health risk,” move out of Illinois, possibly to California.

Meanwhile, in Nashville, more than 200 attorneys have signed a letter calling for an ethics investigation of the Coffee County District Attorney for comments he’s allegedly made, proclaiming that he won’t prosecute domestic violence cases involving same-sex marriages (he believes that there can’t be same-sex marriages and so there’s no domestic in domestic violence) and alleged anti-Muslim comments. Nice to know that someone who is sworn to uphold the law and represent all the people doesn’t think that all of the people deserve to be represented.

An assistant public defender in Southern Illinois was fired because she was not a lawyer. Although she graduated from law school, she failed the bar exam twice. The public defender who hired her never asked for proof of bar passage because that had never been an issue before. It is now. The office’s workload just increased, as it now has to contact all the defendants that she represented. How to explain that snafu?

The last story in this version of “what were they thinking?” hits home because it involves a lawyer I know. I met him soon after he was admitted to the California Bar in 2012.  He was a baby lawyer, who worked with me on a planning subcommittee of a local bar association. I am heartsick at what damage he has brought upon his clients and himself. Named a Southern  California lawyer “Rising Star” for several years, he is now facing up to 20 years (not a typo) in federal prison having pleaded to a $4 million wire fraud charge. The victim of the wire fraud was not his only victim. There were others.

Where and how did he run aground? I could say that I thought he was smart (but apparently too smart for his own good), resourceful (to his clients’ detriment), and a hard worker (he worked hard but apparently not for his clients, who have suffered losses in excess of $4M). He has lost his reputation, he has been disbarred, and he faces substantial prison time. Now it’s all gone to hell and for what? What was he thinking?


old lady lawyer elderly woman grandmother grandma laptop computerJill Switzer has been an active member of the State Bar of California for over 40 years. She remembers practicing law in a kinder, gentler time. She’s had a diverse legal career, including stints as a deputy district attorney, a solo practice, and several senior in-house gigs. She now mediates full-time, which gives her the opportunity to see dinosaurs, millennials, and those in-between interact — it’s not always civil. You can reach her by email at oldladylawyer@gmail.com.

via Above the Law https://abovethelaw.com

June 12, 2019 at 04:26PM

Lawyer is suspended after conviction for chest bumping a prosecutor

By Debra Cassens Weiss

Posted

Image from Shutterstock.

A Louisiana lawyer has been suspended from law practice following a battery conviction for chest bumping a district attorney in a judge’s chambers.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana suspended lawyer Felix Anthony DeJean IV of Baton Rouge for a year and a day in a Jan. 30 opinion noted by the Legal Profession Blog. The length of the suspension means DeJean will have to formally apply for reinstatement.

The incident occurred in March 2015 at the conclusion of an in-chambers conference in a criminal case. District Attorney Bradley Burget had claimed DeJean exchanged words with him, physically confronted him and chest-bumped him. DeJean claimed Burget instigated the altercation and he was acting in self-defense.

The incident led to a criminal charge of simple battery against DeJean and a finding of guilt in July 2016. Burget testified during the trial, along with several other witnesses: the judge, the judge’s assistant and the court reporter. DeJean received a suspended jail sentence along with 18 months of supervised probation that required him to complete an anger management program.

Before the criminal trial, Dejean had filed a civil suit for damages against Burget in connection with the incident. It is still pending, according to the state supreme court opinion.

DeJean violated ethics rules barring criminal acts that reflect adversely on a lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer, and barring conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, the court said.

A hearing committee had recommended a six-month suspension, while the disciplinary board had recommended the year-and-a-day suspension.

The state supreme court opted for the longer suspension, saying evidence supported the conclusion that it was DeJean who chest bumped Burget. While DeJean’s conduct “caused no actual physical harm, it did impair the public reputation of the profession and the judicial system,” the state supreme court said.

The court noted that the matter was the third time DeJean had been accused of violating ethics rules as a result of overly aggressive or physically abusive behavior.

In 2006, DeJean consented to a two-year legal discipline probation for physical alterations and behaviors caused by mental health issues and previous use of marijuana and alcohol. In 2013 he was publicly reprimanded for acting in an abusive and threatening manner to the opposing party during a settlement conference.

DeJean did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. He previously told the ABA Journal he’s innocent and it was Burget who accosted him. “I didn’t touch the guy,” DeJean said.


via ABA Journal Daily News http://bit.ly/1jXmrxS

February 5, 2019 at 10:13AM

Lawyer censured for texting nonpaying client ‘have fun in prison’

A New Jersey lawyer has been censured for telling a nonpaying client he wouldn’t prepare for his impending trial if he didn’t pay his legal bills and he should “have fun in prison.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court censured lawyer Logan Terry in a Nov. 1 order, the Legal Profession Blog reports. The court accepted the recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board, which described the case in a June 8 decision.

Terry had twice asked a judge to allow him to withdraw from the representation and was turned down both times.

Terry’s client was accused of sexual assaults on four minors under age 13. He faced a potential sentence of more than 200 years in prison. Just days before the scheduled trial date in June 2016, Terry told the client that he couldn’t prepare an adequate defense unless his legal fees were paid.

Read more…