Lerach Gets 2 Years in Claimed Milberg Weiss Kickbacks Case
Posted Feb 11, 2008 4:44 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
A once-mighty partner at the nation's biggest and best-known plaintiffs securities firm was given a two-year federal prison sentence today for his role in an alleged law firm scheme to pay $11.3 million in kickbacks to lead plaintiffs in securities class actions.
In addition to the prison term, William Lerach, 61, who formerly ran the West Coast operations of Milberg Weiss before the office spun off into a separate firm headed by Lerach, must also complete 1,000 hours of community service and repay $250,000, reports the New York Times' Dealbook blog. Plus, he must also make restitution of $7.75 million in unlawful gains, under his plea agreement, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). Lerach pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to obstruct justice and make false testimony.
Seven people, including three former partners at the New York-based firm, have pleaded guilty, and name partner Melvyn Weiss awaits trial. In an unusual move, the law firm itself also has been charged in the case, and has also, like Weiss, pleaded not guilty.
“This whole conspiracy corrupted the law firm and it corrupted it in the most evil way,” said U.S. District Judge John Walter during the Los Angeles sentencing hearing. He criticized prosecutors for accepting a plea deal with Lerach, reports the Recorder, and gave him the maximum sentence possible under the plea agreement.
Said Lerach, before he was sentenced: “I pleaded guilty in this case because I was guilty. It was, as they say, felony stupid.”
As discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, Lerach had sought a shorter sentence including six months of home confinement saying that he would voluntarily teach law school courses—including an ethics class—via the Internet during that time, without compensation.