Earlier this week, Scott Diamond, a former partner at Sacks Weston, a Pennsylvania litigation boutique, was sentenced to jail time after stealing six figures of legal fees from the firm and keeping some for himself and his associate co-conspirator.
Diamond pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud in August for stealing about $320,000 from the firm and originally faced up to 40 years behind bars. Prosecutors later requested a guideline sentencing of 27 to 33 months in prison, while Diamond’s defense attorney requested no jail time, suggesting instead a period of house arrest and probation. Ultimately, Diamond was sentenced to six months in prison followed by six months of house arrest. His co-conspirator received a sentence of three years of probation. The Legal Intelligencer has the details:
The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, which includes three years of supervised release, represents a middle ground between prosecution and defense. …
Brody determined that Diamond posed a low threat of reoffense and expressed genuine remorse for his actions during his address to the court. However, evidence supporting the prosecution’s claim that Diamond also stolen from clients by charging personal expenses to their files weighed into her decision that some amount of time behind bars was warranted.
Diamond expressed his regrets to the court, saying, “I would like to extend my deepest and more sincere apology to members of my former firm for taking money from them and keeping them in the dark.” He continued, adding, “There were underlying circumstances that caused me to take the money but to say them now would sound like an excuse.”
That “excuse” for stealing from the firm? Diamond was reportedly promised by Andrew Sacks, another name partner at the firm, that he’d receive more money on top of 33% of the firm’s profits, but that never happened. His lawyer, David Bahuriak, claims his client committed fraud to get his due. Looking back on the situation, Bahuriak acknowledged “it would have been wise for Diamond to sue Sacks rather than steal.”
John Weston, one of Diamond’s former partners at the firm, read a victim impact statement in court, explaining that the firm — not to mention the legal profession — has taken quite the reputational hit thanks to his former colleague’s actions.
“It brings shame on all of us as lawyers. It’s another lawyer joke: Dewey Cheatem and Howe,” Weston said. “We lost all of our young lawyers because they didn’t want to be associated with the firm.”
Following the sentence, Weston said the period of time from discovering Diamond’s fraud to Wednesday’s sentencing has been “painful and ugly,” but it “turned out the way it should.”
“I am sad the whole thing happened. I don’t like for anyone to go to jail but I also don’t like when lawyers get away with theft,” Weston said.
Weston filed a civil suit against Diamond to recoup full restitution for the firm, and says he will drop it if and when he receives the full amount. Diamond’s lawyer, on the other hand, says his client has already paid full restitution.
The moral of the story is an easy one for lawyers to remember: don’t steal from your firm, even if you think you’re owed money. You’re probably going to get caught and you’ll likely wind up behind bars.
Ex-Sacks Weston Partner Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison, 6 Months House Arrest [Legal Intelligencer]
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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