TIP: Avoid Interview Statements Contrary to What You Said at Your Sentencing Hearing

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On Monday, a federal judge denied William Lerach's request to teach a law-school class to satisfy a community-service requirement, saying that he was not convinced that Lerach had been truthful when he expressed remorse at his sentencing hearing.  According to the report, interviews Lerach gave afterward in which he did not express remorse may have contributed to the judge's ruling.

Lerach, formerly a very successful plaintiffs' attorney, pleaded guilty in 2008 to a felony charge of paying clients to bring him cases and then concealing the payments from the court.  He was sentenced to 24 months in prison and 1,000 hours of community service after a hearing during which he expressed "deep shame" about what he had done.  But according to the Daily Journal (Aug. 10, at p. 1), "[t]hough Lerach broke down in tears and expressed deep shame at his sentencing, he later gave several interviews in which he renounced that sentiment and described his prosecution as politically motivated."

At the same time he was publicly contradicting what he had told the judge in open court, Lerach was also publicly suggesting that it would be neat if, after being released, he could teach law students about "the failures of free-market capitalism," by which he meant the failure of regulation to protect consumers and investors, not the interruption of his scheme to pay clients to bring him cases.  And Lerach's attorneys filed a motion to allow his potential teaching efforts to count toward his remaining 1,400 hours of community service.  (He has apparently spent 600 hours volunteering with disabled war veterans and the La Jolla Historical Society.)

Such a motion is unusual, and although this one was not entirely opposed by the prosecutors (they argued that he should get credit only for certain types of subjects), it was denied.

"Mr. Lerach misled and fooled the court into thinking he had remorse," said the judge at the hearing Monday, apparently referring to the post-hearing interviews in which Lerach admitted he didn't.  "About the only message I could see Mr. Lerach communicating to his students is, 'Don't get caught.'"

Not only that, the judge said that he now believes the 24-month sentence (of which Lerach served 17 in prison, some in a halfway house and some "in confinement at his ocean-side La Jolla estate," possibly researching its history) was "too generous," although the plea deal is binding.  "I think society would have been better served by a trial on the merits," said Judge Walter.  I, at least, would audit a class in which Lerach discussed that issue, assuming he ever does get to teach one.