Friday, April 19, 2019

The Severed Thread

Post-suspension crimes have led to the license revocation of an attorney by the Iowa Supreme Court

Anthony R. Johnson is an Iowa lawyer in Ankeny. He was employed as an accountant for Saxton Motors, LC. In August 2016, Johnson entered an Alford plea in the Iowa District Court for Polk County to the felony offense of fraudulent practice in the first degree. The charge was supported by evidence that Johnson embezzled substantial sums of money from his employer by making false entries in the records of the business for over a year. Essentially, Johnson funneled income from the business into two secret, unauthorized business accounts he established to receive the funds.

In October 2016, the district court sentenced Johnson to a suspended ten-year term of incarceration and placed him on probation. The sentence also imposed a fine and ordered him to pay restitution.

Johnson engaged in multiple instances of unethical conduct in the past. His license was suspended in 2009 for abandoning his legal practice in Ankeny. His license was never reinstated, and he has not engaged in the practice of law since that time.

The criminal conduct

In this case, each factor supports the conclusion that Johnson’s criminal activity, resulting in the conviction of first-degree fraudulent practice in violation of Iowa Code section 714.8 (2016), reflected adversely on his fitness to be a lawyer. Johnson made false entries in or alterations to his employer’s business records by concealing deficiencies resulting from his misconduct. See id. § 714.8(4) (providing a person is guilty of a fraudulent practice when they “[m]ake[] any entry in or alteration of any public records, or any records of any corporation, partnership, or other business enterprise or nonprofit enterprise, knowing the same to be false”). Over the course of a year, he deposited the proceeds of automobile sales and insurance payouts belonging to his employer into unauthorized bank accounts  for his own use. Additionally, he overpaid himself in excess of $6500.5 His deliberate and repeated acts resulted in the fraudulent acquisition of funds belonging to his employer. His actions were systematic, targeted, and prolonged and not the result of mere carelessness or misinformation. They demonstrated a clear disrespect for Iowa law and were contrary to the expectations, duties, and responsibilities of a legal professional.


While Johnson has not practiced law for nearly a decade, his dishonest and criminal conduct as an accountant now compels us to revoke his suspended license to practice law. The stain he imposed on the profession while he practiced law has now been darkened by his actions as an accountant, and the time has come for the remaining thread that tethers him to the legal profession to be severed. The legal profession is, and must always be, one of justice, honor, civility, and service. It is a profession that requires lawyers to discharge their duties faithfully and ethically. See Iowa Code § 602.10110. These words are not hollow or superficial utterances for lawyers as they enter the profession. Instead, they are the basic precepts that bind all lawyers together and serve to sustain lawyers throughout a career. Our profession expects no more of lawyers, but demands no less. Here, Johnson not only gave less, his actions revealed him to be unfit to be an Iowa lawyer.

(Mike Frisch)

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