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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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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