A lawyer who resigned abruptly from the office handling BP oil spill claims has denied allegations he accepted kickbacks from lawyers with claims pending in the process, saying the money was paid for earlier work and that his aim was to hide it from his wife — who also happened to work at the claims office — rather than to conceal anything improper. [New Orleans Times-Picayune]
“A man accused of firebombing three New Jersey synagogues may have been influenced by violent Xbox video games that aggravated his mental issues, his attorney said Tuesday. … [Anthony] Graziano’s attorney, Robert Kalisch, speaking outside court after the hearing Tuesday morning, described Graziano as a young man with mental health issues who had few friends and played violent games on his Xbox.” [MSNBC, Patrick Scott Patterson/Examiner](& Elie Mystal, Above the Law)
Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward), who chairs the Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection, has “pleaded no contest to charges that she tried to walk off with $2,500 in clothes.” [L.A. Times via Amy Alkon] “Hayashi spokesman Sam Singer has called the incident ‘a mistake and a misunderstanding.'” [Dublin Patch, KGO] “Hayashi’s attorney, Douglas Rappaport, told reporters that the lawmaker is taking medication for a benign brain tumor and that the ailment may have been responsible for her behavior.” But that doesn’t mean she’ll be taking a medical leave from her duties: according to her attorney, the tumor “is being treated with medication and no longer affects her,” reports the Sacramento Bee, which continues in a skeptical vein: “Medical experts said Monday that it is very rare, however, for a brain tumor that does not require surgery to influence behavior so significantly.” “I am confident that with the close of these proceedings, she will continue to ably serve her constituents with the same talent and passion she has displayed throughout her time in office,” wrote Assembly Speaker John Pérez in a supportive statement.
“Sleepwalker not responsible for brutal attack” [Calgary Sun via Lowering the Bar, who also contributes the headline above]
Annals of unusual criminal defenses: the lawyer defending Hiccup Girl Jennifer Mee on murder charges says he may blame her actions on Tourette’s Syndrome, a medical condition not ordinarily linked to violence or criminality. [CBS News/WFOR/AP, Lowering the Bar]
From the Blue-Ribbon Excuses file, via Obscure Store and a puckishly written account by Mark Morey in the Yakima Herald-Republic.
“Reports today say that a 33-year-old Kentucky man will argue in his murder trial this week that he should be found not guilty of killing his wife because he was under the influence of caffeine at the time.” [Lowering the Bar] Update: Lawyer doesn’t mention caffeine theory on trial’s first day [ABA Journal] From commenter Shtetl G: “I would be more sympathetic if he claimed lack of caffeine caused the murder.”
“A federal appeals court has overturned the arson convictions of a Caltech grad student accused of torching and vandalizing 125 SUVs, ruling the trial judge wrongly barred evidence of the defendant’s Asperger’s syndrome.” [ABA Journal, L.A. Times] While we’re at it, also from the ABA Journal: “Law Prof Charged with Tax Evasion, Claims Severe ADD, Prosecutors Say“.
According to a San Francisco supervisor, a succession of such traumas dating back to childhood predisposed him to the bribery/extortion rap that eventually tripped him up. He drew a maximum 64 month sentence anyway.
That’s the explanation given by Charles J. O’Byrne’s lawyer for why his client didn’t file income taxes for year after year. I’ve never tried that one myself, but then, I’m not the chief aide to the governor of the state of New York, the way O’Byrne is. He has no plans to resign from his position. (Nicholas Confessore and Jeremy W. Peters, “Governor’s Aide Had ‘Late-Filing Syndrome,’ Lawyer Says”, New York Times, Oct. 23).
Relatedly or otherwise, Carolyn Elefant at Legal Blog Watch notes (Oct. 22) that Harpreet Singh Brar, known to Overlawyered readers for his abusive mass mailing of demand letters to California businesses,
came up with an even better defense to charges of failure to file tax returns on behalf of himself and his professional corporation: ineffective assistance of counsel. Sounds promising, except when you consider that Brar is an attorney who represented himself at trial. On appeal, he’s argued that he did not knowingly waive his right to counsel, and that he may have been under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the waiver. Not surprisingly, the appeals court rejected Brar’s argument. (Source: Metropolitan News-Enterprise.)
Ways (successful ways!) of wheedling oneself out of a contempt of court rap (Feral Child, Sept. 25; Tim Blair, Daily Telegraph (Australia), Sept. 25; Prothonotary of the Supreme Court of New South Wales v Hall, Australia, 2008).
John Duncan, once a prominent attorney with the Maine firm of Verrill Dana, was disbarred and faces prison after theft and embezzlement from the law firm, overbilling of clients and tax evasion. “His lawyer, Toby Dilworth, said Duncan had an ‘irrational’ desire to save more, to provide his family with greater financial security,” though over the period in question Duncan’s household had more than a million dollars in assets and an annual income topping a quarter million. (Martha Neil, “Ex-Chair of Prominent Maine Firm Gets 2 Years in Tax Case”, ABA Journal, Sept. 5).
The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board’s charges against attorney John M. Sharp, formerly managing partner in the firm Sharp Henry Cerniglia Colvin Weaver & Davis, may possibly recall the old joke: lawyer finds satchel of someone’s misplaced cash, followed by wrenching dilemma of legal ethics: should he tell the partners? (Karina Donica, “Attorney involved in city-Cleco case faces possible disbarment”, Town Talk (Alexandria, La.), Aug. 22)(via ABA Journal).