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In arguing for leniency, Conour cites previous ‘stellar’ career

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Convicted former attorney William Conour argues in a court filing Wednesday that he deserves leniency in sentencing and should receive less than the minimum advisory range of 14 to 17.5 years in federal prison for defrauding three-dozen clients of nearly $7 million.

Michael Donahoe, the court-appointed federal defender representing Conour, prepared a sentencing memorandum that argues the former leading wrongful-death and personal-injury attorney has shown remorse and taken responsibility since pleading guilty in July to a single count of wire fraud.

Conour’s sentencing memorandum comes a day after the government argued for the maximum statutory sentence of 20 years.

Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana will sentence Conour at 2 p.m. Thursday in Room 347 of the Birch Bayh Federal Courthouse in Indianapolis. At least seven victims from whom Conour stole settlement proceeds have said they want to provide impact statements prior to sentencing.

“No one, least of all the defendant, disputes the gravity of the crime and the need for severe punishment. Mr. Conour recognizes the extensive and irreparable harm he has caused his clients, the legal profession, and his family,” the filing says. “He accepts full responsibility for his actions and is extremely remorseful for the consequences of his behavior.”

The brief says Conour should receive less than the advisory sentencing range calculated in a confidential pre-sentencing report prepared by federal probation. “The defense objects to the enhancements for vulnerable victims and obstruction, and the failure to recognize acceptance of responsibility in the guideline calculation.” Conour’s sentence also should not be enhanced because of the number of victims, the brief argues.

“William Conour is now 66 years old. The sentence sought by the government would almost certainly amount to a life sentence. Aside from retribution and vengeance it is difficult to find another purpose that would be served by achieving that result,” the memorandum says.

“Society reaps little benefit from imposing lengthy sentences on elderly, non-violent first offenders. In most cases the cost of such incarceration far outweighs any benefit. … Considering that this is Mr. Conour’s first offense, and it is certain that he will never practice law or hold a position of trust again, the chance that he will commit future crimes is miniscule,” the memorandum says.
 
The brief argues for a lesser sentence in part because of Conour’s success before his fall. “Mr. Conour enjoyed a stellar career spanning 38 years characterized by giving back to his profession and community. He was regarded by his peers as a leader, innovator, teacher and visionary. He accepted very difficult cases and the high risks that accompanied them, and more often than not was successful.

“He represented over 1,000 clients during his distinguished career and all, with the exception of the victims in this case, were paid at the conclusion of their case. It should be noted that the total number of victims amounts to less than one-third of 1 percent of his total clients, illustrating that illegal conduct was not predominate and did not characterize or define his law practice.”

The brief also seeks to downplay a government claim that Conour showed no acceptance of responsibility in a jailhouse interview with The Indianapolis Star.

“The opinions expressed by Mr. Conour reflect his subjective belief about the characterization of his conduct, as he views it, vis-à-vis how he feels the government views it. He has never questioned the seriousness of his criminal conduct. Many defendants who plead guilty disagree with the government about the relative harm caused by the offense. A common example would be a defendant charged with marijuana dealing who disagrees with the government about the harm from that activity,” the brief says.

While arguing in the brief that he accepts responsibility, Conour takes exception to how his crimes are labeled. “Mr. Conour also expressed his opinion that his behavior should not be characterized as a Ponzi scheme. The term ‘Ponzi scheme’ is not a legal term of art and is not defined in the federal criminal code. Whether certain fraudulent behavior deserves that label is a matter of opinion, and ultimately irrelevant. Both the government and Mr. Conour are entitled to their respective opinions on that topic,” the filing says.
 

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  • It's a Ponzi
    The only remorse Conour has shown is for getting caught in his “cash flow problem.” Strange that this cash flow problem didn’t slow down his spending on himself, even when he was under investigation and court orders. He kept all the trappings of a lavish lifestyle right up to the time he was imprisoned. Justifying Conour’s abhorrent behavior and putting words of attrition in his mouth may be Donahue’s duty, but it’s still revolting…especially for using his youngest children to create sympathy. Good father? Didn’t I read that he left them for several years to live in Scotland while studying for a masters in theology? I’d suggest gargling with Purell, Donahue. I hope the court deems to show as much mercy towards Conour as he did towards his disabled clients. They are left with a life sentence of no funds to help them cope. Conour should have the same life sentence and deal with it…he earned every minute.

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  1. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  2. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

  3. The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. Far too many people are sentenced for far too many years in prison. Many of the federal prisoners are sentenced for marijuana violations. Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

  4. My daughter was married less than a week and her new hubbys picture was on tv for drugs and now I havent't seen my granddaughters since st patricks day. when my daughter left her marriage from her childrens Father she lived with me with my grand daughters and that was ok but I called her on the new hubby who is in jail and said didn't want this around my grandkids not unreasonable request and I get shut out for her mistake

  5. From the perspective of a practicing attorney, it sounds like this masters degree in law for non-attorneys will be useless to anyone who gets it. "However, Ted Waggoner, chair of the ISBA’s Legal Education Conclave, sees the potential for the degree program to actually help attorneys do their jobs better. He pointed to his practice at Peterson Waggoner & Perkins LLP in Rochester and how some clients ask their attorneys to do work, such as filling out insurance forms, that they could do themselves. Waggoner believes the individuals with the legal master’s degrees could do the routine, mundane business thus freeing the lawyers to do the substantive legal work." That is simply insulting to suggest that someone with a masters degree would work in a role that is subpar to even an administrative assistant. Even someone with just a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies would be overqualified to sit around helping clients fill out forms. Anyone who has a business background that they think would be enhanced by having a legal background will just go to law school, or get an MBA (which typically includes a business law class that gives a generic, broad overview of legal concepts). No business-savvy person would ever seriously consider this ridiculous master of law for non-lawyers degree. It reeks of desperation. The only people I see getting it are the ones who did not get into law school, who see the degree as something to add to their transcript in hopes of getting into a JD program down the road.

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