The 10-year prison sentence imposed on former attorney and convicted fraudster William Conour has been vacated and remanded for resentencing. The government Wednesday urged the judge who will again resentence him not to indulge arguments that he, rather than former clients he stole from, is a victim.
This will be the third time that Conour, 70, has been sentenced in federal court for his wire fraud conviction. A former leading Indianapolis personal injury and wrongful-death lawyer, Conour pleaded guilty and admitted to stealing settlements from 36 former clients. He was sentenced more than four years ago has a standing order to make restitution to his victims totaling more than $6.5 million. Federal prosecutors said Conour used money stolen from his clients’ settlements to finance a lavish lifestyle.
After he successfully appealed the conditions of supervised release that follow time served, Conour was resentenced to the same term last year, minus the supervised release conditions. But after a subsequent appeal, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case for a second resentencing in light of United States v. Thompson, 777 F.3d 368 (7th Cir. 2015). Earlier this month, the 7th Circuit issued a mandate vacating Conour’s sentence and remanding for resentencing after ruling in a nonprecedential disposition that Conour had not been permitted to speak during his resentencing.
At Conour’s first resentencing, Judge Richard Young told Conour he was barred by the 7th Circuit from considering any issues aside the overbroad supervised release conditions addressed in a Thompson remand. Case law on this was evolving while Conour was being resentenced, but the 7th Circuit ruled Conour was prejudiced at his initial resentencing when he was denied an opportunity to speak.
Conour “contends that the court misunderstood the scope of a Thompson remand and erred both by refusing to entertain arguments made in his sentencing memorandum and by denying him the right to allocute. We agree,” the 7th Circuit ruled. “… We conclude that Conour’s inability to allocute before he was (re)sentenced did ‘seriously affect’ the fairness of the proceedings. Conour was not given an opportunity to speak about anything that might have mitigated his prison sentence … an explanation of his criminal actions, or even a rehashing of the arguments in his resentencing memo — before the judge imposed a sentence.” Even when a lesser sentence may be unlikely, the court wrote, “denying the defendant a chance to allocute undermines other values connected to the allocution, including giving him the chance to accept responsibility and providing the court with a better understanding of him.”
No resentencing date has been set, but the government on Wednesday filed a brief urging Young to exercise discretion in reopening arguments at Conour’s sentencing. The government also suggested it may be prepared to argue for an even greater sentence, depending on what Conour has to say when he again appears in Young’s Indianapolis courtroom.
Federal prosecutors urged Young not to “indulge any argument from Conour that he, rather than his victims, is the aggrieved party in this case.”
“Should Conour again raise his ‘brazen ... last ditch attempt[s] to evade responsibility for his conduct,’ ... this Court would have ‘sound reasons for rejecting it,’” a brief filed by the government says. The government noted that during oral argument in October, some 7th Circuit judges were skeptical that Conour’s arguments help his cause and indeed may weigh against him.
“Whether Conour demonstrates remorse (as he did at his first sentencing) or attempts to evade responsibility for his criminal conduct (as he did in his pro se filings) will hinge on what Conour has to say,” the government’s brief says. “The government recognizes, however, that this Court has the authority to consider such arguments. Should this Court entertain arguments from Conour, the government will be ready to respond with appropriate evidence and argument.”
No dates have been set for Conour’s second resentencing, and he has filed no pleadings since the 7th Circuit’s remand.