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Judge accepts Conour plea; IU will use funds donated by ex-lawyer to help victims

July 15, 2013

Now that former high-profile personal-injury attorney William Conour has pleaded guilty to accusations that he defrauded dozens of clients of more than $4.5 million, his victims hope for some measure of restitution. At least a fraction of the loss will be covered by the law school to which Conour gave $450,000.

Dressed in faded black-and-white Marion County Jail scrubs and shackled at the wrists and ankles, Conour pleaded guilty July 15 to a single count of wire fraud that could earn him a federal prison sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of as much as $250,000. Victims include widows and children of people who were killed in workplace accidents, and the money involved came from settlements Conour won for them and was supposed to have held in trust.

Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana said Conour would be sentenced at 2 p.m. Oct. 17, at which time victims will be able to testify.

“I think quite a few of them are going to want to exercise their right to address the court,” federal prosecutor Jason Bohm told Young.

Conour admitted to the government’s stipulated facts, though he told Young, “I’m not sure the figures are accurate,” regarding the asserted loss of $4.5 million.

Conour’s alma mater Indiana University said in a statement it intends to use money Conour gave the school to help compensate his victims. In a statement, IU President Michael A. McRobbie said he would recommend to the school’s board of trustees that Conour’s name be removed from the atrium at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

“McKinney School Dean Andrew Klein announced his full support of this decision, as well as returning all of the funds received by the law school from Mr. Conour for the naming of the atrium to an appropriate fund for compensating the victims of Mr. Conour’s crimes,” the university said in a statement.

Conour asked the court in a filing July 3 to waive a trial that had been scheduled for Sept. 9. The change of plea was entered six days after a judge ordered him jailed for dissipating assets in violation of terms of bond.

The plea says Conour realizes, “I will have to pay restitution,” but it’s unclear where additional money to pay victims might come from. The court fund established for victim restitution last month contained about $21,000.

Conour said little on his own behalf during the short hearing July 15. When Young asked if he had been treated for substance abuse or mental-health issues, Conour said he had received treatment for alcohol abuse and was taking a prescription antidepressant.

Conour described to Young how funds he received for settlements were used to pay his legal fees and used to pay other expenses when he or the firm encountered cash flow problems.

“I treated it more like a banking system,” he said. He also admitted to accepting a $450,000 settlement for a client without his knowledge and converting the money to personal use. “I did not tell him,” Conour said when Young asked if he ever informed the client.

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