Saturday, March 19, 2016

Senator John Sampson is Suspended From the Practice of Law, Effective Immediately Says The First Department Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court

John Sampson
Another corrupt politician is caught in New York State. When will all of them be gone? There are still more out there, including Andrew Cuomo.

Betsy Combier
Editor, Courtbeat

Matter of Sampson
2016 NY Slip Op 01757
Decided on March 10, 2016
Appellate Division, First Department
Per Curiam
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

Decided on March 10, 2016 SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION First Judicial Department 
Angela M. Mazzarelli, Justice Presiding,
Rolando T. Acosta
Dianne T. Renwick
Karla Moskowitz
Rosalyn H. Richter,Justices.


[*1]In the Matter of John L. Sampson (admitted as John Llwelyn Sampson), an attorney and counselor-at-law: Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, John L. Sampson, Respondent.

Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, John L. Sampson, was admitted to the Bar of the State of New York at a Term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the Second Judicial Department on April 29, 1992.

Jorge Dopico, Chief Counsel, Departmental
Disciplinary Committee, New York
(Raymond Vallejo, of counsel), for petitioner.
Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins, P.C.
(Barry Kamins, of counsel), for respondent.

Per Curiam
Respondent John L. Sampson was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the Second Judicial Department on April 29, 1992, under the name John Llwelyn Sampson. At all times relevant to this proceeding, respondent maintained an office for the practice of law within the First Judicial Department.
On July 24, 2015, respondent was convicted, after a jury trial, in the United States District [*2]Court for the Eastern District of New York, of one count of obstruction of justice in violation of 18 USC §§ 1503(a) and 1503(b)(3), and two counts of making false statements in violation of 18 USC § 1001(a)(2), both felonies. Respondent has not yet been sentenced.
Respondent, who was a member of the New York State Senate, attempted to prevent an associate, who had been charged by the United States Attorney's Office (USAO) with bank fraud and wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme, from cooperating with law enforcement authorities by, among other things attempting to obtain confidential, nonpublic information regarding the mortgage fraud case through a person who, at the time, was an administrative employee with the USAO; and directing the associate to withhold documentation from the government [FN1]. In addition, respondent falsely stated to FBI agents that he had not previously seen a check register page reflecting a prior payment of funds from the associate to respondent, which, in fact, the associate had shown him; and had not directed a Senate staffer to contact the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for the purpose of having the sales tax liability of a liquor store, in which respondent had an ownership interest, reduced, which he did.
The Departmental Disciplinary Committee (Committee) seeks an order determining that the crimes of which respondent has been convicted are "serious crimes" as defined by Judiciary Law § 90(4)(d); suspending respondent from the practice of law pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(f); and directing respondent to show cause before a Hearing Panel or a referee, which shall thereupon hold a hearing and issue a report and recommendation to this Court, why a final order of censure, suspension or disbarment should not be made within 90 days following the imposition of sentence, or respondent's release from incarceration, if applicable, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(g).
In response, respondent's counsel has submitted an affirmation in which he, inter alia, acknowledges that the offenses of which respondent was convicted are "serious crimes."
However, he opposes the Committee's request for an interim suspension and requests that a sanction hearing be postponed until after respondent is sentenced.
The crimes which respondent was convicted of are "serious crimes" within the meaning of Judiciary Law § 90(4)(d) and The Rules of the Appellate Division, First Department (22 NYCRR) 603.12(b). Further, this Court has held that the federal crimes of obstruction of justice and making a false statement constitute "serious crimes" (see e.g. Matter of Williams, 217 AD2d 9 [1st Dept 1995]; Matter of Konigsberg, 183 AD2d 335 [1st Dept 1992]; Matter of Goldblatt, 132 AD2d 329 [1st Dept 1987][the respondent was convicted of several federal offenses after trial, including obstruction of justice, which was deemed a "serious crime"]; see also Matter of Izquierdo, 56 AD3d 1117 [3d Dept 2008][the respondent, who was convicted of making false statements to FBI, pled guilty to a "serious crime"]).
This Court has consistently held that during the pendency of a "serious crime" proceeding, it is appropriate to suspend an attorney, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(f), who has been convicted of a felony and is serving a term of probation or imprisonment (see e.g. Matter of Lam, 104 AD3d 80 [1st Dept 2013]; Matter of Schneider, 97 AD3d 152 [1st Dept 2012]); Matter of Shapiro, 81 AD3d 25 [1st Dept 2011]). Here, even though respondent has not yet been sentenced, he is still subject to immediate suspension (see e.g. Matter of Kramer, 69 AD3d 139, 141 [1st Dept 2009] [interim suspension imposed based on "serious crime" conviction prior to sentencing]; Matter of Fasciana, 36 AD3d 9 [1st Dept 2006] [same];Matter [*3]of Moid, 230 AD2d 396 [1st Dept 1997] [same]; Matter of Woodward, 218 AD2d 65 [1st Dept 1996] [same]).
Respondent argues that good cause exists to deny the Committee's request for an interim suspension. Respondent, however, has not presented any compelling reason why this Court should not impose an interim suspension. Furthermore, with regard to respondent's request to postpone a sanction hearing until after he is sentenced,under Judiciary Law § 90(4)(g), a sanction hearing cannot be initiated until a final judgment of conviction is entered, which will occur once respondent has been sentenced (Matter of Kramer, 69 AD3d at 141). Lastly, as a matter of course, this Court refers serious crime matters to a Hearing Panel of the Committee to hear and report.
Accordingly, the Committee's petition should be granted. We deem the offenses of which respondent has been convicted a "serious crime" pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(d) and 22 NYCRR 603.12(b). Additionally, respondent should be suspended from the practice of law, effective immediately, and until such time as the disciplinary proceedings against respondent are concluded, and until further order of this Court. Finally, respondent is directed to, within 90 days of his sentencing or release from incarceration, whichever is applicable, show cause before a Hearing Panel designated by the Committee, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(g), why a final order of censure, suspension or disbarment should not be made.
All concur.
Order filed [March 10, 2016].
Mazzarelli, J.P., Acosta, Renwick, Moskowitz, and Richter, JJ.
Respondent suspended from the practice of law in the State of New York, effective the date hereof, until such time as disciplinary matters pending before the Committee have been concluded and until further order of this Court. Opinion Per Curiam. All concur.

Footnote 1:The indictment alleged that the associate provided respondent with $188,500 so that respondent could repay funds he had embezzled from foreclosure sales for which he served as a court appointed referee. Notably, counts one and two of the indictment, which charged respondent with embezzlement, were dismissed as time-barred by the trial court. 

State Senator John L. Sampson, center, leaving Federal District Court in Brooklyn on
Friday. Mr. Sampson, a Democrat, was convicted of trying to thwart a federal inquiry.
 CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times
John Sampson, New York State Senator, Is Guilty on Some Federal Charges
July 24, 2015

 State Senator John L. Sampson was convicted on Friday of trying to thwart a federal investigation, becoming the latest New York lawmaker to face a prison sentence.
He was found guilty of three of nine charges, the most serious of which, obstructing justice, carries a maximum term of 10 years. He was acquitted of charges carrying sentences of up to 20 years.
Mr. Sampson, who previously served as the Democratic leader in the Senate, was also found guilty on two charges of making false statements. The jury in Federal District Court in Brooklyn delivered its verdict after six days of deliberations.
As a result of his felony conviction, Mr. Sampson immediately lost his seat in the Legislature. He is the second state senator to be found guilty this week, after Thomas W. Libous, a Republican, was convicted on Wednesday and forfeited his seat.
During the three-week trial, federal prosecutors argued that Mr. Sampson, 50, of Brooklyn, had embezzled state funds when he was appointed to oversee the sales of properties in foreclosure and then covered up the embezzlement. The embezzlement charges had been thrown out by Judge Dora L. Irizarry, who said the statute of limitations had passed. Prosecutors said on Friday that they would appeal the decision once it was officially issued.
The defense argued that the government had entrapped Mr. Sampson, and it emphasized that one of his former friends, Edul Ahmad, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors after Mr. Ahmad was charged with mortgage fraud.
Mr. Ahmad testified that Mr. Sampson threatened to silenceanyone who was helping investigators. Prosecutors played video and audio recordings of a visibly distraught Mr. Sampson taking a check register that Mr. Ahmad indicated could be proof of the embezzlement and putting it in his jacket pocket.
Kim O’Meally, the forewoman of the jury, said the defense’s argument that Mr. Sampson was entrapped had been persuasive. “Ahmad was getting him to say things when he didn’t want to,” she said. “We felt that was entrapment,” and added that the jury did not find Mr. Ahmad credible.
Sam Noel, another friend of Mr. Sampson, who for 22 years was a paralegal at the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, was also ensnared in the investigation. Mr. Sampson asked Mr. Noel to look up information about Mr. Ahmad’s case and any case being pursued against Mr. Sampson. Mr. Noel testified that he used confidential law enforcement databases to do so. Mr. Sampson’s lawyers argued that the senator had never directly asked Mr. Noel to break the law.
Though Mr. Noel did not find much information, he was charged with a federal crime, lost his job and described feeling betrayed by Mr. Sampson, “a man I view as my brother.”
The forewoman, Ms. O’Meally, said of Mr. Noel’s account, “Although it was an emotional testimony, we really had to listen to all the evidence and take the emotion out of it.”
Prosecutors said the embezzlement occurred when Mr. Sampson, a lawyer, was a court-appointed referee for foreclosed properties in Brooklyn. Rather than returning the surplus money from the real estate sales to the State Supreme Court, as he was supposed to do, Mr. Sampson kept about $440,000, prosecutors said. Mr. Sampson set the funds aside for his own use, including to help his unsuccessful bid in 2005 for Brooklyn district attorney.
In a proceeding last year, Mr. Sampson’s lawyers did not contest that the embezzlement occurred but said it had taken place so long ago that the statute of limitations had expired.
The six counts the jury acquitted Mr. Sampson of included two counts of witness tampering and one count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice, evidence tampering, concealing records and making a false statement.
Federal guidelines suggest a prison sentence of “north of 10 years,” said Kelly T. Currie, the acting United States attorney for the Eastern District.
Nathaniel H. Akerman, one of Mr. Sampson’s lawyers, said, “We are going to pursue all of our legal rights in this case until Mr. Sampson is finally vindicated.” Mr. Akerman added that the jury verdict showed that at no point “did he ever use his office to benefit himself.”
After the verdict, prosecutors asked that Mr. Sampson, who has been free on bail, be jailed immediately.
“He is unable to obey rules, regulations and laws,” Alexander Solomon, a federal prosecutor, said, adding that throughout the trial, Mr. Sampson had parked in no-parking spaces outside the courthouse using his Senate placard, “indicating he’s on official business.”
Mr. Akerman responded that Mr. Sampson had been on time to all of his court appearances and that his family had watched the entire trial, indicating he was not a flight risk. Judge Irizarry denied the prosecution’s request.
Correction: July 24, 2015 
An earlier version of this article, using information from officials, misstated the maximum sentence for the obstruction-of-justice charge State Senator John L. Sampson was convicted of. It is 10 years, not 20.
Correction: July 24, 2015 

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the number of charges of which Mr. Sampson was convicted. He was convicted of three charges, not six.

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