Kingpins Part II: Pablo Escobar or Members Ofthebar?
The following examples are by no means exhaustive examples. Please do not get me wrong, I know we have many lawyers of impeccable integrity. Some are members of my own family.
We need good, honest lawyers in this country. It looks like we have so many lawyers that the bad ones are creating a terrific PR headache for the others, both professionally and politically.
Suppose judges (politically appointed lawyers) like to think they are highly esteemed pinnacles of their chosen profession. (Not very hard to believe, is it?) Suppose public perception of the legal profession is regularly tarnished, however. Would judges lean toward leniency for rotten lawyers, if that helped control the PR damage?
Here are some actual cases for you to consider:
# 1 No kingpins here?
Ex-prosecutor, others plead guilty in SC drug case (Columbia-AP) Feb. 18, 2005 - South Carolina attorney general's office announced that three lawyers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine……..they can all complete their probation in two years if terms of their sentencing are met. A non-lawyer was named a fugitive in a related indictment carrying a 25-year sentence… (blog: Would lawyers who had already conspired to distribute cocaine also have conspired to testify against a non-lawyer for reduced sentences…)?
# 2 Definitely no Kingpin here?
Ex-prosecutor's guilty plea caught State Bar unaware (Enric Volante, ARIZONA DAILY STAR)
Arizona’s State Bar was unaware that attorney Lourdes Lopez had pleaded guilty to fraud until it learned about it from news reports Lopez resigned as prosecutor for Pima County Attorney's Office in August 2002. A federal judge dismissed the charges after Lopez got in no further trouble and complied with conditions in her plea agreement.
# 3 No Kingpin Even here?
Ex-prosecutor faces 11 charges (LINDA FRIEDLIEB, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette April 12, 1997) A federal grand jury in Little Rock charged Dan Harmon, 52, of Benton, businessman Roger C. Walls of Sheridan and Sheridan attorney William A. Murphy with violating the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.
According to the indictment "In reality, the defendants operated the Seventh Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney's Office as a conduit to obtain monetary benefits to themselves and others, and to participate in and conceal criminal activities,''. Harmon faced one charge of racketeering, two of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine hydrochloride, four of conspiracy to extort money, two of conspiracy to manufacture drugs, one of witness tampering and one of retaliation against a witness.
In 1999, U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner sentenced him to eight years in prison, ordered him to pay $16,000 in restitution to victims of two extortion schemes and fined him $25,000.
# 4 No Kingpin Even here?
Indictment Charges Former Justice Official, Others With Racketeering Jun. 5, 1995 - The government charged three criminal defense lawyers, including a former, high-level, Justice Department official (Michael Abbell) and 56 others with being members of a racketeering enterprise and participating in the conspiracy that allegedly imported more than 220 tons of cocaine, a charge that carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
The 161-page indictment also alleges that the three lawyers and three other lawyers who have previously pleaded guilty "prepared false affidavits, delivered drug money to pay legal fees and warned clients of pending charges." In addition, they were charged with helping to launder drug proceeds, hindering prosecutions, fabricating evidence, intimidating government witnesses, and revealing the identity of an informant who investigators say was later murdered by cartel hitman. Abbell was sentenced to 87 months' imprisonment.
Do you see any pattern of trial lawyer corruption and sentencing leniency yet?
These lawyers did not see much either: Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick said in a statement that the attorneys' action in the case "goes far beyond zealous representation of a client."
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) said only it was inappropriate for Abbell to be "providing expertise to major cocaine traffickers that he obtained while he was working for the U.S. Justice Department."
Note: Criminal defense attorneys even complained that the last case highlights troubling breeches of attorney-client confidentiality by the government (Saundra Torry, "Defense Counselors Say Probe Attacks Lawyer-Client Relationship," Washington Post, June 6, 1995, p. A16).
Is enough publicity given to cases when lawyers are caught? Could this be due to media bias and links to a certain political party that is lead by the “trial lawyer/criminal defense attorney” profession? Do punishments fit the crime? What would your punishment probably have been in each case?
Does the legal system cut lawyers a “professional break? Are lawyers now to be treated as a special class of citizen? Lawyers in general have a duty to report unethical conduct. Whether they have to report on themselves is another question.