White-Collar Crime

Lawyer who stole from clients gets 46-month max; ex-clients say it isn't enough prison time

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Standing in the courtroom where he tried his very first case, a former Georgia lawyer on Monday admitted to a federal judge “I’m a thief” and described “a surreal sense of shame” concerning his circumstances.

Donald Carlton Gibson was a Brunswick practitioner who earlier gave up his law license. And Gibson wasn’t the only one in the courtroom with a negative view of his accomplishments, reports the Florida Times-Union.

Before Chief U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced him to the 46-month maximum in the Brunswick case, prosecutor Jennifer Solari said Gibson stole more than $300,000 from clients “out of pure greed and spent it on stupid stuff.” While Gibson had gotten treatment for his alcoholism, he only did so long enough to get out of previous trouble, she contended.

Later, convenience store owner and ex-client David Patel told the newspaper that Gibson had stolen from him for 10 years and, when he referred relatives to his lawyer, stole from them, too. “They still blame me,” Patel said.

Retired Army Maj. Edward Canady told a reporter that Gibson took his retirement money for legal fees, but didn’t provide the promised representation. As a result, Canady believes he lost $500,000, including the value of property he had hired Gibson to try to save.

Although Wood ordered Gibson to pay $312,432.19 in restitution, it isn’t clear from the Times-Union article where he would get the money to do so.

Both Canady and Patel said they wished the judge could have given Gibson more time.

Wood cited the adverse impression he had given people of the legal profession as she sentenced him the maximum possible prison term for the one count of bank fraud to which he pleaded guilty in December.

It concerned an $80,000 check he had received from a client to fund a settlement. Instead, Gibson reportedly altered the check to make it payable to his law firm and deposited it.

That client was apparently made whole by the bank, according to the newspaper, because it had cashed a forged check.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Lawyer accused of stealing $400K pleads guilty”

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