As ex-attorney William Conour’s appeal of his conviction and 10-year sentence on a federal wire fraud charge moves ahead, so do victim lawsuits that seek to collect damages from colleagues who practiced with him years earlier and from a Conour creditor.
Conour, who was convicted last year of defrauding about three dozen former clients of $6.8 million, filed an appeal brief Dec. 3 arguing the court failed to investigate his defense counsel’s withdrawal. His appeal also claimsthat the court wrongly imposed “suspicionless” searches and other conditions of supervised release following his imprisonment.
Conour, 67, also challenges standard supervised release requirements that he not consume excessive amounts of alcohol, among other things, after his prison term is up. The Bureau of Prisons projects his release will be in March 2022. He is seeking oral argument before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, some of the state and federal cases filed in the wake of Conour’s conviction are expected to move toward resolution in the coming weeks. Former Conour associate Thomas Doehrman is named in a Marion Superior Court case seeking proceeds that were never paid after Conour negotiated a settlement for a family injured when their vehicle was hit by a tractor-trailer.
The court has issued default judgments against Conour totaling more than $2.1 million, and plaintiffs argue Doehrman’s affiliation with the former Conour Doehrman Attorneys at Law opens him to liability. Doehrman argues that he and Conour were never in partnership and that he bears no liability for losses due to Conour’s activities.
Marion Superior Judge James Osborn had not ruled on motions for summary judgment before him from plaintiffs and defendants at IL deadline. A final pre-trial conference is set for Dec. 19 in the case, Davis Beals, et al. v. William Conour, et al., 49D14-1307-CT-27343. A five-day trial is set to begin Jan. 27.
Elsewhere, victims may receive token restitution from a federal suit involving Conour’s former malpractice carrier, which won rescission of coverage in October. The court has held $16,337 plus interest in premiums the insurer turned over to the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co. v. William F. Conour, et al., 1:12-CV-1671.
On Dec. 10, District Judge William T. Lawrence gave a former Conour creditor, ACF 2006 Corp., 21 days to show cause why its interests in the money outweigh those of former Conour clients subject to the restitution order in his criminal case. ACF has not intervened in the Minnesota Lawyers case.
ACF has, though, pursued in a separate action a default order it won against Conour owed on a $600,000 line of credit, naming as co-defendants attorneys and firms who practiced with Conour in the past or who took former Conour cases. Those defendants are Mark C. Ladendorf Attorney at Law P.C., Timothy Devereux, Cohen & Malad LLP, and Jeffrey A. Hammond. The Bealses and other Conour client victims also have intervened seeking restitution in this case, ACF 2006 Corp. v. William F. Conour, et al., 1:13-CV-01286.
Southern District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has yet to rule on motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment filed in the ACF case. A trial date has not been set, but the case management plan anticipates a trial date sometime in February 2015.
Limited restitution has been made, and Conour still owes victims more than $6 million.
Once a leading personal injury and wrongful-death attorney, Conour was sentenced in October 2013 after he pleaded guilty in July of that year to defrauding former clients. He resigned from the bar in June 2012 rather than face a disciplinary proceeding in which a verified complaint against him was filed in May 2012.
In his criminal appeal, Conour is being represented by two federal public defenders from the Central District of Illinois.
“The district court abused its discretion by failing to conduct any inquiry into the reasons behind defense counsel’s motion to withdraw during the restitution proceedings after Mr. Conour had been sentenced,” despite the office’s statement that conflicts existed between Conour and his public federal defender, Conour’s brief says. He says that failure severely prejudiced him, requiring reversal and remand for further proceedings.
Various public defenders had appeared for Conour at the time the federal court became aware the federal public defender agency was holding $2,512 from a Conour trust fund while he also was subject to the court’s restitution order.
“The court did not ask whether defense counsel could continue to adequately represent Mr. Conour, despite the conflicts of opinion on restitution and loss and the conflict of opinion on the garnishment action” regarding money the office held in Conour’s name, the brief says. Conour had sought that money for his commissary fund at the Morgantown, West Virginia, Federal Correctional Institution, but Chief Judge Richard Young ordered the public defender’s office to turn the money over to the court.
The appeal brief says Conour and his defenders consistently disagreed with restitution calculations and the court’s garnishment of funds the office held in his name.
Separately, Conour’s appeal brief argues the District Court abused its discretion because he was never granted an opportunity to object to a special condition of supervised release that made him subject to “suspicionless” searches. The special condition authorizes the search and seizure of any contraband found.
“The basis for this broad authority to seize is not contained in the record, which is problematic,” the brief says.
Prior to his conviction, though, Conour had been jailed and had his bond revoked for dissipating assets without first seeking court approval, which had been a term of his pretrial release.
Conour’s brief also argues that a condition requiring him to “truthfully answer all inquiries (by) the probation officer and follow the instructions of the probation officer” would violate his rights under the Fifth Amendment.
The brief also attacks special terms of release he contends are generally overbroad in federal sentencing. For instance, Conour’s terms of probation include that he support dependents, regularly work and not frequent places where illegal substances are sold, among other things.
Conour’s youngest children will be legal adults when he’s released, the brief says, and he will have no dependents at that time. The brief also raises the hypothetical instance of Conour getting into trouble for frequenting a store where a clerk sells heroin.
“The concerns … are not meant to be absurd or picayune,” the brief says. “They are meant to illustrate the fact that Mr. Conour, like other defendants, has been subject to conditions that should at least be more particularly crafted because they pose a penal risk if violated.”
The government’s reply brief in Conour’s appeal is due Jan. 2, 2015.•