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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. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  2. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  3. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  4. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  5. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

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