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Jurors reject blame-the-paralegal defense in embezzlement case

Posted Jan 17, 2014 7:15 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Corrected: Jurors in Warwick, R.I., convicted a former state senator on Wednesday of conspiring with his former mistress, who worked as his paralegal, to steal more than $160,000 from his legal clients in three real-estate transactions.

Former state Sen. Patrick Timothy McDonald was found guilty of three counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiring with the paralegal, whose current name is Kimberly Porter, the Providence Journal and IndependentRI.com report. McDonald was acquitted of two other embezzlement charges. His law license has been suspended since October 2008.

McDonald’s lawyer had blamed the misspent money on Porter. She testified against her onetime boss after pleading no contest in 2012 to conspiracy, aiding and abetting, larceny of more than $500, obtaining money under false pretenses and forgery, according to IndependentRI.com. She received a 10-year suspended sentence.

Porter had previously pleaded no contest to felony embezzlement in 1995, to fraudulent use of a credit card in 1998, and to issuing fraudulent checks in 2001, according to IndependentRI.com. McDonald’s lawyer, former Rhode Island House Speaker William Murphy, had argued that McDonald had a drinking problem at the time and was not aware of Porter’s actions.

Assistant Attorney General Ron Gendron disagreed with that argument, according to the IndependentRI.com account. "If you listen to Mr. Murphy, the defendant's practice basically consisted of him showing up at the office every now and again to do a closing and then leaving to go drinking or sleep with his paralegal," Gendron said. "You can't do $33 million in business in real estate closings if that's what your practice consists of."

Murphy said McDonald would appeal.

Article corrected at 1 p.m. to correctly state that Murphy had argued McDonald had a drinking problem at the time.

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