July 10, 2012
Learning From Mistakes That Are Crimes
An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended that an attorney convicted and sanctioned for wire fraud be reinstated to practice.
The attorney had been involved in politics from a young age and well before he attended the University of Chicago law school. His crimes involved working on political campaigns while on the public payroll. He cooperated with the government against his mentor and rationalizer-in-chief, who became his co-defendant.
The hearing board described the conduct that led to conviction:
In April 2002 Petitioner entered into a plea agreement by which he pled guilty to a single count of mail fraud and admitted other misconduct relating to the misuse of political resources. In pleading guilty to the crime of mail fraud, Petitioner admitted that between 1997 and 1998 he, along with his co-defendants and under the direction of Scott Fawell, received a salary from the State of Illinois while exclusively performing campaign-related work for the gubernatorial campaign of George Ryan; fraudulently assisted in the diversion of the services of selected Secretary of State employees to the Ryan campaign while those workers received wages, salary and other compensation, including health benefits, from the Secretary of State's office; fraudulently participated in the diversion of Secretary of State resources and property to the benefit of the Ryan campaign (including an industrial shredder, reams of copy paper, office supplies, parking spaces, parking stickers, cell phones and other office equipment); and participated in the falsification of Secretary of State records in order to conceal the diversion of the employee services and property to the Ryan campaign. Petitioner further admitted that after the 1998 gubernatorial election, he assisted in compiling a list of Secretary of State office employees who had performed well for the Ryan campaign, and Petitioner was aware that those individuals were later provided raises and job benefits as a result of this process.
The petitioner left Illinois for the lure of Washington, D.C. and working as White House liason to the Department of Transportation.
He has shared his story in law school ethics classes:
Petitioner testified that after he was sentenced, he contacted the U.S. Attorney's office and expressed his willingness to speak publicly about his experiences with the federal investigation. He was introduced to Professor Hank Shea of the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis, who specializes in ethics and had been giving presentations with felons who spoke about their ethical lapses. Petitioner and Shea began making presentations together in February 2007 and continue to do so. Most of the programs are presented to law students and are followed by a question and answer session. During the presentations Petitioner talks about his relationship with Fawell, explains how their misconduct progressed and shares the following three rules with his audience: 1) if conduct is being rationalized on the basis that "everyone is doing it" or "no one will find out," seek out another perspective; 2) live life as if it will be scrutinized; and 3) if moral dilemmas are repeatedly arising in the work place, be prepared to withdraw and seek employment elsewhere. Petitioner also emphasizes the importance of telling the truth and discusses the repercussions of his misconduct.
In addition to law schools, Petitioner and Shea have appeared before business groups and high school students. Petitioner has also conducted public corruption training seminars. He testified he has been involved in twenty-seven presentations, primarily with Professor Shea, and submitted documentation of those programs. Other than receiving honorariums of $1,000 from two organizations and having his travel expenses covered, Petitioner has not asked for or received any compensation for the presentations.
He was disbarred in the District of Columbia. (Mike Frisch)
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