January 17, 2013
No Suspension For Contempt Conviction
An attorney who was convicted of contempt in the second degree has been publicly reprimanded by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.
The attorney made disbursements to his client in violation of a civil forfeiture order.
The court found a non-suspensory sanction to be appropriate:
...both respondent's testimony before the Panel and the stipulation of facts demonstrate that, by disbursing funds to [client] Pustilnik despite knowledge of the forfeiture order, respondent is guilty of criminal contempt. However, the evidence also established that respondent only disbursed funds to Pustilnik in violation of the forfeiture order because he believed that since he was never served with the order, it was not binding on him. Moreover, the record evinces that respondent was remorseful, fully cooperated with the criminal investigation by the District Attorney's Office, and pleaded guilty to the criminal charge, thereby accepting responsibility for his actions. Lastly, the evidence demonstrates that after pleading guilty, respondent then immediately reported the conviction to the Committee, fully cooperating with its investigation, he had a deep commitment to charitable work,was actively involved in several charitable organizations, enjoyed a good reputation in the legal community, and did not profit from the disbursements he made to Pustilnik.
Given the absence of any aggravating circumstances and the existence of several mitigating circumstances, we agree with the Panel's recommended sanction of public censure. Specifically, respondent committed the crime alleged under a misapprehension of the law and cooperated both with the District Attorney's Office's and the Committee's investigation. Furthermore, respondent took full responsibility for his actions, did not profit from them, and has a good reputation in the legal community.
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