Lawyer is disbarred for mishandling client check, recording trial with concealed-camera eyeglasses

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A New York lawyer has been disbarred in connection with a loan from a client, the wrongful use of funds earmarked for a transcript and a secret court recording.

The Appellate Division’s First Judicial Department of the New York State Supreme Court disbarred lawyer Angel Antonio Castro III of New York in a Nov. 3 opinion.

The appeals court said findings by a referee “are firmly supported by the record.” Because the referee found that Castro intentionally converted client funds, and there is no significant mitigating evidence, Castro should be disbarred, the appeals court said.

Castro told the ABA Journal in an email that he will be appeal and will be “pursuing whatever legal options I have available.”

“I made mistakes,” Castro says, “but there are plenty of mitigating factors and certainly no malice or deceit.”

The allegations against Castro stemmed from three separate matters, the appeals court said. They are:

    • A client gave Castro a check for $3,500 that was expressly earmarked for trial transcripts needed for an appeal. Castro deposited the check into his business account but never paid for the transcripts. He made withdrawals for business and personal expenses from the account, leaving a balance of $70. Castro had contended that the check was a retainer to spend as he wanted.

    • Castro wore eyeglasses with a concealed camera to make an unauthorized recording of a matrimonial trial.

    • Castro borrowed $100,000 from a client in 2017 to start his law practice. Castro drafted the loan agreement and repayment plan “despite the self-dealing nature of this transaction,” the appeals court said. The client alleged that Castro only repaid $25,000.

Castro had sought to transfer the disciplinary proceeding to the appeals court’s Fourth Judicial Department because he represented a former First Judicial Department employee who alleged sexual harassment.

He also claimed that the referee didn’t give the proper weight in mitigation to evidence about the effects of his arrest and injury by the New York Police Department. The charges were dropped, but Castro said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other problems as a result of the incident.

The appeals court said his claim of potential bias by the court is without merit. The court also said the referee considered the mitigation evidence and determined that it wasn’t “extremely unusual” so as to warrant a lesser sanction.

Castro said in his email to the Journal that there is no transparency in the disciplinary process.

He alleges that ethics regulators “failed to follow written procedures and failed to turn over exculpatory evidence.”

“There exists no sworn testimony nor statements from any of the complainants,” Castro says. “One of them is currently facing criminal charges based on threats he made to former Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s secretary as part of his campaign to contact and harass everyone involved to influence the grievance process.”

Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog, which posted opinion highlights, and, which had coverage of the decision.

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