ILNews

Conour’s 10-year sentence disappoints victims

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.
 

conour-bill-mug Conour

“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.

focus-conour-facts.jpg

“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.•

ADVERTISEMENT

  • 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.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

ADVERTISEMENT