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Conour’s 10-year sentence disappoints victims

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William Conour admitted greed drove him to steal almost $7 million from more than 30 former clients, several of them widows and children of people killed in workplace accidents.

Before he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Oct. 17, the once-prominent personal-injury and wrongful-death lawyer accepted responsibility in a tearful statement to the court, apologizing for the harm he inflicted on his former client victims, his friends and family, and the legal profession.
 

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“I have let them down, and I have to ask for their forgiveness,” Conour said. “The fault and culpability of this conduct is solely mine.”

But victims weren’t in a forgiving mood during sentencing, saying afterward they were disappointed that Conour received just half the maximum sentence. Some said they felt victimized again.

“We trusted you,” a sobbing Stacy Specht said, testifying Conour stole $486,000 she should have received from her husband Wayne’s wrongful-death settlement to provide for her family. Now she has trouble paying the bills and testified she may have to sell everything she owns to survive.

“All I want to do is cry,” Specht said. “You’ve taken away all my financial security. … You’ve taken away everything.”

Marlane Cochlin of Columbia City said Conour took the settlement money negotiated after her husband, Cory, died in a workplace accident. She faces a mountain of her own medical bills now and needs hip surgery.

“My husband left home one day and never returned. He was crushed to death at work,” she said. “How could you take from us who had no earning power – a man who had unlimited earning power?

“I struggle every day to stay on my feet,” Cochlin said. Her husband’s settlement money “was meant to take me through the rest of my life,” she said. “What could he (Conour) have bought that was worth that?

“I can’t ever imagine trusting an attorney again,” Cochlin testified. “Show him the compassion he showed us.”

Eric Stouder of Indianapolis was swindled out of settlement money Conour won for him after his leg was crushed in a workplace accident. Stouder told the court Conour strong-armed him into signing a settlement he disagreed with and later deprived him of proceeds.

“He is a sociopath,” Stouder said. “He deserves no less than the maximum sentence.”

Stouder said not only was he victimized by Conour, but now he’s being pursued because his former lawyer also failed to pay a $60,000 workers’ compensation lien. “They want their money and are coming after me to get it,” Stouder testified.

Afterward, Stouder, like others, expressed disappointment in the 10-year sentence. “It’s pretty light for what he did, I think.”

Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana adjusted Conour’s sentence downward from the advisory guidelines’ 14-to-17.5-year range recommended in a presentencing report based on defense objections.

Prosecutors sought the maximum 20-year sentence, arguing Conour hadn’t accepted responsibility and had obstructed justice – factors Young rejected at sentencing. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Conour must serve 85 percent of the 10-year sentence.

“Your statement today I believe was sincere,” Young said. “First time.”

Conour’s prior statements and conduct in court were less than sincere, Young said, but he didn’t find they merited more time in prison.
“I thought you were trying to be a little loose with your understanding of the requirements put on you,” Young said, noting Conour’s behavior changed after his bond was revoked and he was ordered jailed for dissipating assets. Conour pleaded guilty shortly thereafter.

“Maybe it took being incarcerated,” Young said, “instead of living in a 10,000-square-foot mansion.”

Young told Conour he couldn’t find a case similar to his, but he sought to impose a sentence that would send a deterrent message to anyone who might think of defrauding people as Conour did. He also ordered Conour to make restitution to victims.

Conour’s actions were “nothing other than greed to finance a lavish lifestyle,” Young said. Conour agreed when Young asked if greed alone motivated him.

Young said he soon will swear in a new class of attorneys and told Conour that “one thing they need to protect is their integrity and reputation.

“You’ve lost it,” he told Conour. “You’ll never get it back. It’s a justified loss considering what you’ve done.”

Young denied a defense request that Conour be released pending assignment by the Bureau of Prisons so that he could have access to computers and records that could help find sources of restitution money. Young also forwarded to the BOP a request from Conour’s family that he be housed in federal prisons either in Huntington, W.Va., or Lexington or Ashland, Ky.

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“Paying this debt to my former clients is my No. 1 priority,” Conour said.

Conour, 66, said he operated under the “delusion” that he would repay client settlement money he converted to his own use, and he understood the anger and contempt his victims had for him.

“It was a result I never intended for my clients,” Conour said. “I’m truly sorry for my conduct.”

A court fund contains about $500,000, and an auction of Conour’s assets Nov. 5 is expected to raise another $200,000 or so. There could be other sources of restitution, but any sources are likely to cover only a fraction of the loss.

Young noted that Conour has an extensive network of support and that the court had received numerous letters from family, friends and colleagues that, while expressing dismay about his actions, also urged the judge to consider Conour’s former lengthy successful career when sentencing him.

“In the late 1990s, you lost your way,” Young said, calling Conour’s crimes “almost unconscionable.”
Young said in 24 years he’d never seen a case with the circumstances of those presented by Conour’s deeds. He’s seen many cases where people without his advantages did stupid things, he said, “but what you did wasn’t stupid. You’re a smart man.”

“These are hard cases for me or any other judge to impose sentence on another lawyer,” Young said. He noted Conour’s crimes were “a giant shadow cast over our profession.”

Also perplexing for Young were the statements from Conour’s family expressing the good father and family man he had been during the course of his three marriages.

His eldest daughter, Tonja Eagan, also took the stand as a victim, noting that Conour had taken even her proceeds from a car-crash settlement.

She said her father changed after his third marriage. He became severely depressed, an alcoholic and consumed by materialism. “It was almost like a black hole in his heart he needed to fill” with travel and luxury.

Eagan pleaded for a lenient sentence that would allow him to someday be reunited with his family. “We hope and pray it’s not a life sentence,” she said.•

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  • I Have To Ask
    Wire fraud carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. What fine did he get? If none, why not? And Conour is quoted, referring to clients, family and peers, “I have let them down, and I have to ask them for their forgiveness.” NOT I want to ask, or I beg them for their forgiveness. Freudian slip? He is a man who chooses his words carefully and made his living with his words. I HAVE to ask them = he was acutely aware that he had to make a public show of remorse or the judge would add more years. Still working the con.
  • Same whine...
    Deja veaux all over again. Didn’t Conour’s eldest already blame all Bill’s woes on the third wife in some other interview? Did #3 tie Bill up, hold a gun to his head, and force him to swindle his poor clients? If not, he’s responsible for everything he did. The law says so. The court said so. Even Bill said so. Anyway, she’s the third. What happened with the other two marriages? And what’s the common denominator in all the marriages? Oh, oh…it’s Bill…don’t you hate it when that happens? Quit making excuses for him. Bill and his greed are the only villain in this sordid case, no matter how far eldest is willing to go to hurt and lay blame on the mother of his youngest children. I agree with Birds of a Feather; Conour got off easy compared to his victims
  • Ponzi, Madoff & Conour
    Well, Young finally stated on the record just what all us non-legal, peons suspected. “…hard cases for me or any other judge to impose sentence on another lawyer.” Why is it more acceptable for Conour to steal millions from vulnerable people than a Joe Blow who we all know would have been thrown in jail from the get-go, stayed there until sentencing, and been handed the full twenty years? Disgraceful conduct by the judicial system! And the eldest daughter testifying what a great father Conour is? Great fathers don’t steal thousands from their kids. And great fathers don’t ruin the family’s reputation and leave their young children homeless and penniless. The eldest makes excuses for him (depression & drinking). So he should be given less time because he’s a depressed drunk AND a thief, is that the logic? Many people have depression and drink too much but they don’t use their position of trust to prey on and steal from the disabled, widows and children. It was proven he knew what he was doing and methodically and purposefully set up a scheme that allowed him to steal from those he was sworn to protect. He didn’t. No excuses for him or Joe Blow. The public needs to be protected from predators like him.

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  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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