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Criminal defense lawyer escapes prosecution by lying

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"Attorney Lorna Brown admits she took materials out of an Alameda County jail without showing them to guards after a visit with her then-client Yusuf Bey IV." "Brown admitted she met a member of the Bey family on an Oakland street corner two days later and handed off the papers. Brown said that she "got a really bad feeling after the transaction," but didn't do anything about it." Turns out those materials were Bey's witness hit instructions; Bey was hoping to escape a conviction for the murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey by committing a few more murders.

Brown could have faced prosecution for her role in the affair, but cut a deal with the prosecutor: she would retire as an attorney, and there would be no criminal charges. Unfortunately, the prosecutor didn't structure the agreement as a deferred-prosecution agreement with a tolling of the statute of limitations, and when the statute of limitations expired, Brown reneged, and the prosecutor had to rely upon a complaint to disciplinary authorities.

Disciplinary authorities are now looking at a multi-year suspension for Brown's actions (the California Supreme Court rejected a two-year suspension as too lenient), but, for the life of me, I don't understand why this isn't an automatic disbarment: even if, somehow, the conduct of the attorney in the Bey case isn't sufficient to result in disbarment, why is Brown allowed to escape disciplinary action for reneging on her original agreement with the prosecutor? [San Jose Mercury via ABAJ; Chauncey Bailey Project]

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


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