Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Close Enough To Disbar

The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department disbarred a criminal defense attorney convicted of offenses in federal court arising out of his represenation of a defendant charged in a cocaine conspiracy.

The court described the circumstances:

In June 2006, respondent, a criminal defense attorney, was retained by Shaheed "Roger" Khan (Khan) to represent him in a criminal prosecution. The United States alleged that Khan was operating an enterprise which imported large quantities of cocaine into the United States from Guyana. In the course of respondent's representation of Khan, federal agents began investigating respondent, his then law associate, and Khan for conspiring to influence potential witnesses in Khan's upcoming trial.

On July 10, 2009, by superseding indictment, respondent was charged in a 13-count indictment in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Specifically, respondent was charged with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice in violation of 18 USC §§ 1512(b)(1) and (b)(2)(A); eight counts of attempt to obstruct justice in violation of 18 USC §§ 1512(b)(1) and (b)(2)(A); one count of bribery of in violation of 18 USC § 201(c)(2); one count of making a false statement in violation of 18 USC § 1001(a)(2); and one count each of importation and possession of eavesdropping equipment in violation of 18 USC § 2512(1)(a) and (b).

On August 20, 2009, following a jury trial, where the evidence demonstrated that respondent sought to use Khan's Guyana-based criminal organization to identify, locate, and tamper with potential witnesses in Khan's criminal trial, respondent was convicted of all counts in the superceding indictment, except count 11, which charged respondent with making a false statement. On December 4, 2009, respondent was sentenced, inter alia, to a prison term of 14 years followed by three years of supervised release.

Summary disbarment was imposed because the court found one of the crimes would constitute a felony under state law:

Notwithstanding the facial dissimilarity between 18 USC § 201(c)(2) and Penal Law § 215.00, the Committee's submission presented in support of this application establishes that respondent, in violating 18 USC § 201(c)(2), also violated Penal Law § 215.00, such that his conduct constitutes a felony in this State. Accordingly, the Committee establishes that here, there is essential similarity between 18 USC § 201(c)(2) and Penal Law § 215.00. Specifically, the Committee submits the superceding indictment in respondent's federal criminal case along with the trial testimony presented at trial. Read together, this evidence reveals that respondent's federal conviction for bribery stemmed from his attempts to bribe the girlfriend of the prosecution's key witness in its case against Khan. More specifically, the evidence adduced at respondent's federal criminal trial establishes that respondent, through Khan's associate, arranged to pay this witness at least $5,000 if she signed an affidavit created by respondent, containing tailored and false testimony, and if she agreed to testify in accordance thereto at Khan's upcoming trial. Accordingly, by offering the witness money in exchange for tailored testimony at trial, respondent offered a benefit to a witness who he would then call to testify in an upcoming court proceeding, with the understanding that the witness' testimony would be influenced thereby. This constitutes bribery in this State under Penal Law § 215.00 and the Committee has therefore established that the conduct underlying respondent's federal conviction for bribery is also a felony in this State and that therefore, 18 USC § 201(c)(2) and Penal Law § 215.00 are essentially similar.

(Mike Frisch)


Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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