Victims of disgraced wrongful-death and personal-injury attorney William Conour said his 10-year sentence imposed on a wire fraud charge – half the maximum he could have received – left them feeling victimized again.
Conour, 66, was sent to federal prison Thursday for stealing nearly $7 million from more than 30 wrongful-death and personal-injury clients. Several who gave impact statements before sentencing said afterward they were disappointed a longer term wasn’t imposed.
“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.”
Conour also took that stand and tearfully apologized to his family, friends, victims and the legal community. “The fault and culpability of this conduct is solely mine,” he said.
“My apology is a weak substitute for their loss,” Conour said, telling the court he hoped to work toward full victim restitution.
“Paying this debt to my former clients is my Number 1 priority,” he said. A court fund contains about $500,000, and an auction of Conour’s assets next month 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.
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?”
Cochlin testified she would never be able to trust attorneys again as a result of her dealings with Conour.
Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana adjusted the advisory guidelines for Conour downward from the 14-to-17.5 year range recommended in a presentencing report based on defense objections.
Young told Conour he couldn’t find a case similar to his but sought to impose a sentence that would send a deterrent message.
Conour’s actions were “nothing other than greed to finance a lavish lifestyle,” Young said.
Young said he soon will swear in a new class of attorneys, and he 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.”
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 singing 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.”
Afterward, Stouder, like others, expressed disappointment in the 10-year sentence. “It’s pretty light for what he did, I think.”