Former inmate takes over townhome of his onetime lawyer, thanks to judge’s fee ruling
Posted Feb 24, 2014 9:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A former inmate is now living in the Florida home of one of his defense lawyers as a result of hearings into the lawyers' fees.
A federal magistrate determined that the lawyers’ conduct was “outrageous” and a federal judge ordered them to repay $275,000 in legal fees charged to a client who entered a guilty plea, the Sun-Sentinel reports. The former client, Patrick Coulton, paid the lawyers to defend himself on charges related to smuggling cocaine and marijuana.
Coulton pleaded guilty two months after his 2008 arrest with the understanding that prosecutors would later recommend a reduction in his 14-year sentence. But the lawyers—Emmanuel Roy and Peter Mayas—didn’t respond when prosecutors tried to deliver the promised break in Coulton’s sentence, according to court records cited in the story.
Coulton had paid the lawyers by turning over a townhome, a Porsche, and tens of thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry, including his then-wife’s wedding and engagement ring. A magistrate judge had found the lawyers did a minimal amount of work and then hid their assets from the court, the story says.
Mayas gave up his home and car in an effort to pay back the fees. Roy, now disbarred, is in prison for an unrelated mortgage fraud. Mayas is suspended from law practice, according to a prior Sun-Sentinel article.
Coulton doesn’t yet have title to the home; it is in foreclosure after Mayas transferred it to an acquaintance, the story says. Coulton isn’t exactly savoring the moment. “There's a certain sense of unease about acquiring a house in this fashion," Coulton told the Sun-Sentinel. "I almost feel sorry for them." He served about 5½ years of his sentence after getting help from another lawyer.
ABAJournal.com: "Ex-Lawyer Who Ignored Federal Court Order to Pay Big Bucks to Abandoned Client Is Now Jailed"