What is the cost for fixing tickets?
How corrupt is a NJ judge who fixes tickets for her “significant other?” Corrupt enough to get kicked off the bench, and have her license suspended it appears. Former judge Wanda Molina already lost her position as chief municipal judge, and the NJ Supreme Court will decide on whether and how long to suspend her license to practice law. The disciplinary prosecutors are asking for a 2-3 year suspension, but others expect maybe a six month layoff.
Four other municipal court judges were also caught up in the ticket fixing scandal, and resolved their charges.
Was Wyser’s Punishment the Right Result?
The Indy Star story starts: “Former deputy prosecutor David Wyser’s after-the-fact acceptance of $2,500 for approving the early release of a convicted killer was a “wobble” in an otherwise unblemished career of public service, federal Judge Sarah Evans Barker said [Nov. 25] as she sentenced Wyser to three years of probation.”
Paula Willoughby, convicted of murdering her husband, was sentenced to 70 years, but after lobbying by her defense lawyer (who appears to have offered a bribe and has not been charged yet) the deputy prosecutor David Wyser agreed to reduce the sentence to the 18 years she had served. That was followed by a “campaign contribution” of $2500 from the father of Willoughby. The timing was apparently critical. In 2006 Wyser decided that a sentence modification was appropriate “once she served the minimum time” she could have been sentenced to, which was the 18 years, in 2009. When that time came, Wyser filed the paperwork. He was campaigning for Hamilton County Prosecutor at that time, and says the contribution came when he needed some campaign cash.
The victim’s family thought a travesty occurred when Federal Judge Sarah Barker ordered six months sentence of house arrest and three years probation (reports do not identify the underlying sentence that would be imposed if Wyser violates the terms of the probation).
Judge Barker comment that Wyser helped with investigations into the defense lawyer who offered the contribution and Carl Brizzi, Wyser’s former boss. No charges have been filed against either person, and none apparently will be filed against Brizzi.
A check today shows that Wyser’s law license is still “Active in Good Standing.”
My take: The law license matter is incredible. That should have been resolved by now with a disbarment or resignation. Interesting when/if it will occur. The sentence is a more difficult matter to decide. Judge Barker is not a “softee” on anyone. Her rationale makes some sense – if the law license is gone. But there are lawyers who do crimes similar to non-lawyers, and who get more favorable treatment. Sorry fellow lawyers, but the Courts should hold us to the standards of the law. Exceptions ought to be the rare event, and it does not seem like it is.
That is the troubling trend.
Another Round for Conour?
This blog has covered the William Conour matter in some detail. With six previous stories, his sentencing and McKinney Law stripping his name off the wall of the atrium, I thought I was done with him. Today the federal prosecutors are talking out loud about the possibility of appealing the 10 year sentence he got for stealing millions from widows, orphans, and severely injured clients. A notice of appeal was filed last week in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The sentencing judge said at the time of sentencing that the time was set so there is a possibility that Conour will make some restitution to the victims. At 66 years of age there is some concern that a longer sentence will make that impossible. But there is the troubling trend.
A check on the status of Conour’s license: Resigned.
No published report from the ISBA on the impact on the Client’s Financial Assistance Fund.
More to come.
Was there any evidence that the $2500 was used for something other than campaign expenses? Was there evidence of a quid pro quo at the time of Wyser’s initial decision in 2006? I am troubled by the merits of this indictment. With a low standard of proof, the lesson here seems to be that the best way to tear one’s enemy down is to simply make a nicely timed campaign contribution.
According to a report in the Indiana Lawyer, it was more than “a nicely timed campaign contribution :
“But David Wyser, Brizzi’s top deputy, told authorities it was he who approved the sentence modification that set Willoughby free.
Wyser agreed to plead guilty to a single bribery charge—for a $2,500 donation toward his run for Hamilton County prosecutor—and cooperate with the government in exchange for leniency. He’s facing up to two years in prison and is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 25.
In a Nov. 1 filing, the government described how Wyser accepted the bribe and approved the release of Willoughby, who wound up serving less than 20 years on a 70-year prison sentence.
The early release in July 2009 was the result of a lobbying campaign by local attorney Jennifer Lukemeyer, who has not been charged in the case. She exchanged several emails with Wyser with the subject line “Free Paula!” according to a sentencing memorandum.
In emails, Wyser was hardly veiled about his interest in collecting campaign funds from Willoughby’s father.
“What will Paula do to make me feel warm and fuzzy?” he wrote in one email.
“You should convince him to write me a check on behalf of the whales,” Wyser wrote in another, referencing the movie Free Willy.
But it was a phone call on the morning of May 29, 2009, that likely sealed Wyser’s fate. Based on testimony from Lukemeyer, Wyser called her that morning and said: “I want him [Willoughby’s Father] to give and you can tell him.”
Willoughby’s father, Harrison Epperly, wrote the $2,500 check the same day. It was the largest direct contribution to Wyser’s campaign during the 2009 reporting period.
Wyser cashed it on June 22, and he filed the sentence-modification agreement the next day. A few months later, Lukemeyer hosted a fundraiser for Wyser at her home, where she says Wyser sought another campaign contribution from Epperly.
Wyser has maintained that he did not solicit the donation but “corruptly accepted it as a reward.”
Investigators discovered Wyser had deleted about 60 emails, including incriminating messages between he and Lukemeyer, from his Prosecutor’s Office account.”