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Conour's colleagues questioned behavior

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William Conour, until recently, was one of Indiana’s most respected and powerful personal injury attorneys, his name prominent enough to grace a law school atrium. Now he faces a federal charge that could send him to prison for much of the rest of his life.

Conour, 65, stole $4.5 million from more than 25 clients whose settlement money was entrusted to him, according to information filed Aug. 14 in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana. The wire fraud charge against Conour carries a possible prison term of 20 years and fines.

“We will be committed to seeking full restitution for the victims,” said Richard Cox, a special U.S. attorney from the Central District of Illinois who is prosecuting the case against Conour in Indianapolis. But Cox acknowledges victims might not be made whole.
 

conour-bill-mug Conour

“We hope there are assets out there,” Cox said. “What we’re essentially alleging is that money does not exist.”

People familiar with the case say they believe a guilty plea is imminent. Conour’s attorney, Richard Kammen, did not return telephone and email messages seeking comment. Telephone lines at the Conour Law Firm were temporarily disconnected, according to a recorded message.

Since Conour came to the attention of federal authorities, the scope of his alleged crimes has widened. He initially was accused of misappropriating or converting for his own use $2.5 million from client trust funds. Conour resigned from the bar this year after the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed a verified complaint against him because of the federal charge.

The charge against Conour is partially the result of suspicions brought to light by former colleagues who saw firsthand Conour’s behaviors and actions.

“The problem we have here is it takes a person who knows the system to abuse the system,” said attorney Timothy Devereux of Ladendorf & Ladendorf in Indianapolis, who compared Conour to disgraced financial titan Bernie Madoff.

“I think because of his reputation in the community, people were hesitant to acknowledge or they didn’t want to believe what he was doing,” Devereux said.

Devereux worked with Conour for four years until last December. “After I left, I was contacted by law enforcement to ask if I could help them,” Devereux said.

When Devereux cut his professional ties with Conour, he said numerous clients followed, but Conour wouldn’t release case files. In some cases, Devereux said Hamilton County sheriff’s officers had to be called to execute court orders requiring Conour to hand them over.

“At times he could be very generous and gregarious, but he was a perfectionist and very controlling,” Devereux said. “He could be great, and at the same time turn around and show great anger within seconds. In hindsight, I look back and it’s almost like he did have a split personality. … There were days when the staff would look at each other and say, ‘What set him off?’”

One of the clients Devereux represented was Gracelynn Harrison, who was injured in a car crash when she was about 18 months old. When questions arose about her $62,000 settlement trust, Devereux won a court order requiring Conour to appear in Decatur County, and Conour was later arrested and charged with failure to appear.

“I don’t believe there’s any sufficient funds,” Devereux said. “That’s my fear … I hope to God I’m wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.”

John Daly, a partner at Golitko & Daly P.C., said he alerted the disciplinary commission in July 2008 that Conour wasn’t paying a client in a nursing home from a six-figure special-needs trust that was supposed to be set up to compensate for injuries she sustained falling down an elevator shaft.

“To me, the ‘A’ story is the tremendous delay between the time I made the initial complaint to … this year,” said Daly, who stopped working with Conour in February 2008.

“Bill did a lot of mayhem in the meantime,” Daly said.

Disciplinary Commission Executive Director G. Michael Witte said the commission’s confidentiality rules restrict him from confirming or denying complaints against Conour prior to the filing of the verified complaint against him in May.

But Witte said building a case against Conour took time, as evidenced by the federal court information alleging that Conour’s actions date to 1999. It took years for the FBI to make the case, he said, and the commission has far fewer resources.

“This case is one that’s frustrating to a lot of lawyers because Mr. Conour was a go-to lawyer for a lot of lawyers around the state,” Witte said. “Because he was this go-to person for lots of referrals, he engaged in more deceit and cover-ups to hide things from those other attorneys.

“He had to avoid the suspicion of all the lawyers who sent him work,” Witte said.

“The most difficult part about this is that the rules of confidentiality sometimes hamstring us from being able to use outside resources and exchange information,” he said. “I can’t just pick up the phone and call the FBI and say, ‘We’ve got a case against a lawyer.’

“The only thing we can do is utilize our own investigation resources to pursue our own independent investigation,” Witte said. That includes one full-time investigator and 12 staff attorneys who handle about 1,200 complaints per year.

Devereux said Conour betrayed a profession that typically is protective of clients and fights to see their needs are attended to. “To see someone do this to clients is just gut-wrenching,” he said.
 

15col-ConourAtrium.jpg The William and Jennifer Conour Atrium at the I.U. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis is named after the Conours, who dedicated a gift to the school of $450,000. An IUPUI spokeswoman said it was premature to discuss what will happen with the name before the federal wire fraud charge against William Conour is resolved. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“The tragedy is when people in a position of trust stop thinking that the money entrusted with them doesn’t belong to somebody else,” Daly said. “They’re entrusted with millions of dollars, and they rationalize it.

“There’re a lot of sad parts to this,” Daly said. “The saddest part is these are widows and orphans and people who are paralyzed. These aren’t your fender-bender cases.”

Meanwhile, the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law faces the difficult prospect of deciding what to do about the William and Jennifer Conour Atrium that is the focal point of the Indianapolis school, and what to do about the $450,000 Conour paid to have his name attached to it.

“We are following this very closely and will take action at the appropriate time,” said Margie Smith-Simmons, director of news and media at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “Until the case is resolved, we’re not in a position to discuss details.”•

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  • 1999???
    If my newborn grandson's father had the occasion to know about the 1999 complaint, maybe he would still have his 1.7 million dollar today! Not only has he lost every dime he was awarded for his father's death, he also has to take out student loans for his education thereby actually COSTING him money in the long run. Conour is a miserable jackass and so is his wife if she doesn't return her portion of her recent divorce settlement because it didn't belong to either of them.
  • Attorney
    If Disciplinary Commission Executive Director, G. Michael Witte, is correct that the confidentiality rules prohibit the Disciplinary Commission from referring criminal activity to the FBI, Indiana State Police, or other criminal authorities then the Indiana Supreme Court needs to step in and change its rules. Mr. Witte indicates that the Disciplinary Commission does not have the resources or maybe even the expertise to uncover sophisticated financial crimes. If that is the case the Supreme Court needs to permit referrals of criminal activity, so that the public is protected from lawyers who abuse their fiduciary activity. I recently spoke to a CPA-Attorney, who in 1999 discovered and reported to the Indiana Disciplinary Commission, about the criminal conduct of Mr. Conour. This gentleman told me, he gave the Commission significant details about how Conour defrauded his clients and yet, Indiana Disciplinary Commission never issued any disciplinary charges and was unable to tell the CPA-Attorney what the Commission's investigation discovered.

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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