Monday, May 16, 2022

Former CIA Officer Disbarred

A disbarment ordered last week by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department

On January 26, 2015, respondent was convicted after a jury trial, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, of multiple federal felonies: unauthorized conveyance of government property in violation of 18 USC § 641; unauthorized disclosure of national defense information in violation of 18 USC § 793(d) and (e); unlawful retention of national defense information in violation of 18 USC § 793(e); and obstruction of justice in violation of 18 USC § 1512(c)(1). He was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment, supervised release for two years and ordered to pay a special assessment of $900.

Respondent's conviction stemmed from his employment at the CIA where he was assigned to a classified project designed to undermine Iran's nuclear program. Among other things, respondent shared classified information about the Iranian nuclear program with a reporter, which was published in a book.

Because the disbarment for a federal felony not "substantially different" from a state felony, disbarment was automatic when he was convicted.

Thus, the AGC loses in seeking prospective treatment

The Committee further contends that respondent did not report his January 26, 2015 conviction until December 13, 2021 and therefore moves to make respondent's disbarment effective as of the date of the Committee's motion. Respondent urges that the disbarment be made nunc pro tunc to the date of his conviction.

First, we note that respondent committed professional misconduct by failing to timely report his conviction to either the Court or the Committee as required by Judiciary Law § 90(4)(c) and 22 NYCRR 1240.12(a). Although this failure to timely report his conviction may be germane to any future application for reinstatement (see 22 NYCRR 1240.16[a]), it does not affect respondent's disbarment date. Indeed, the statutory language of Judiciary Law § 90(4)(a) clearly states that disbarment occurs upon conviction, and the convicted person ceases to be an attorney at that time (see Matter of Barash, 20 NY2d 154, 157 [1967] [finding that the "law is settled that upon a conviction for felony a lawyer is ipso facto disbarred"]).

Accordingly, the Committee's motion should be granted, and respondent is disbarred and his name stricken from the roll of attorneys and counselors-at-law in the State of New York, effective nunc pro tunc to January 26, 2015, the date of his conviction.

The Intercept reported 

The government’s case consisted mostly of records of emails and phone calls between Sterling and[New York Times reporter] Risen that began in 2001 and continued into 2005. The emails were very short, just a line or so, and did not reference any CIA programs. The phone calls were mostly short too, some just a few seconds, and the government did not introduce recordings or transcripts of any of them.

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