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Indicted former attorney found dead before trial

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A former attorney set to go on trial yesterday was found dead in his home. The jury trial for William Crabtree II, who was indicted on two counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, was scheduled to begin Monday morning before Judge Rudy Lozano in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.

Dyer police were called to Crabtree's home around 4 a.m. Monday and contacted the Lake County Coroner's office to determine the cause of death. Chief Deputy Coroner Jeff Wells said there were no signs of foul play and the cause of death is pending toxicology tests.

Crabtree was indicted in October 2008 after being accused of stealing money from two clients. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

The charges stem from an estate he represented in 2005, from which he was accused of embezzling at least $300,000; he also allegedly failed to pay its state and federal taxes. After the theft was discovered, he agreed to pay restitution to the estate, including interest and penalties for taxes.

The indictment also alleged Crabtree devised a scheme last year to defraud and obtain money and property from another client in order to pay the restitution from the 2005 incident.

Crabtree's law firm trust account held $1.8 million from a client he represented in the sale of a restaurant, and Crabtree was instructed to hold the money until the client could purchase another restaurant. In July 2008, Crabtree was to wire $1.7 million for the purchase of another restaurant; instead, Crabtree only wired $168,721. He wired $746,300 from the firm's trust account to another lawyer's trust account to make restitution. Crabtree also allegedly wrote himself a check from the restaurant client's funds for $135,000. In August 2008, Crabtree admitted to the client he didn't have the money in the fund but would obtain a loan to repay the client.

Then, Crabtree allegedly faxed a copy of a check for $1.2 million to the client's attorney claiming he obtained a loan; the check was a fake.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed a petition for emergency interim suspension the day he was indicted; Crabtree resigned from the Indiana bar in December 2008.

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  5. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

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