Little Corruption or Little Jail Time? Wyser – No Time=Right result?; Conour Redux, again!

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.

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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.

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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.

Lawyers = Icarus?; Hubris?; Conoured

An Icarus moment?

Paul Bergerin, a once prominent NJ lawyer, former state and federal prosecutor and recently a criminal defense lawyer was convicted by a jury on 23 counts, including Conspiracy to Murder – a witness, and Racketeering, in the operation of his law firm. He has been sitting in jail since 2009 on the charges, had one trial declared a mistrial, and faces life in prison now.

When the lede starts “once prominent attorney” you know the Icarus paradox is involved.

H/T Tim Kalamaros

Being the Investigator gets you Suspended

David Schalk made a serious mistake, he forgot his role as a lawyer.  Lawyers are not investigators, and should not make themselves witnesses, or more importantly criminal defendants. One sage said “Whatever you do, make sure the client goes to jail, and you go to lunch.”

Schalk had a client charged with possession of Meth. He apparently did not think that the confidential informant was legitimate, and was selling drugs himself.  So Schalk set up a drug buy by two of his criminal defendant’s friends, plus a juvenile. Schalk provided the funds and a recorder, and told the agents that “it is all legit.”

After the “agents” successfully bought some drugs they smoked some, kept some of Schalk’s money, and gave him a folded newspaper that they said contained the drugs.   Schalk tried to get law enforcement to make arrests, and so they arrested the lawyer Schalk. for Conspiracy to Possess Marijuana, and Attempt to Possess.  That was not his plan.

The court found five facts in aggravation, nothing in mitigation.  The opinion discusses his lack of insight into the misconduct and his attacks on the officers for being vindictive as evidence that Schalk needing disciplined.  So it did the deed.  Schalk got nine months without automatic reinstatement. I will explain the importance of “automatic reinstatement” in a later post.

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Conour

Recent word is that Bill and Jennifer Conour’s names still grace the atrium at the McKinney Law School.  According to the Indiana Lawyer story of Sept. 12, 2012 the law enforcement authorities were actively investigating the matter in December 2011.  That story’s lede is “William Conour, until recently, was one of Indiana’s most respected and powerful personal injury attorneys,…” (see reference above).

I think it is time for Indiana University to figure out how to get those names off the atrium wall.  Whatever it takes.  IU’s new general counsel will surely do a better job to include contract terms that fit with Herman B Wells’ admonition about naming things until five years after the person’s death, or at least have a forfeiture clause if necessary.  Coaches contracts should have morals/NCAA clauses as well.  Good luck Jackie.