October 9, 2009
Son On The Run
Reciprocal discipline of a 90 day suspension was imposed by the Kansas Supreme Court in a matter where that same sanction had been imposed in Colorado. The attorney had a son who also was an attorney. The son was charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child, conspiracy and assault on a child. He was released on bond and failed to appear for trial. He moved from Mexico to Guatemala to Costa Rica. The father was added as a signatory to the son's bank account, sold the son's home and Corvette and made a series of deposits in the account that the son was able to access through ATM withdrawals. The son was eventually arrested, extradited, convicted and disbarred.
The attorney had practiced without prior discipline for over 40 years, was remorseful and had fully cooperated. A minority of the court would have imposed the more severe sanction of indefinite suspension.
This case calls to mind a decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals where the court majority imposed disbarment of an attorney who helped his son flee to Israel after committing a murder: "This is not a case of this Court passing moral or criminal judgment on a father for trying to protect his youngest son, nor is it the Court punishing a surrogate for a crime where the accused has escaped the reach of Maryland's law...It is merely the process by which this Court protects the public from attorneys whose actions fly in the face of their legal obligations to the public and their own profession."
The Maryland case has a dissent that is worth a read: "...the extreme language and tone of the majority opinion might lead a reader to conclude that the respondent was the one who committed the homicide." The dissent notes that the son was tried, convicted and imprisoned in Israel (he was a dual citizen). The assistance was provided before an arrest warrant was issued. According to the dissent, an attorney or parent would not obstruct justice by delivering a potential defendant to a jurisdiction where a lesser penalty might be imposed. Indeed, Maryland and Virginia prosecutors had agreed to send the alleged Beltway Sniper to the jurisdiction (Virginia) where a death penalty would more likely be obtained. (Mike Frisch)
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