In bid to avoid disbarment, Ogden attorney who spent client’s money cites mental crisis | Courts
OGDEN – A prosecutor argued Friday that the evidence strongly supports the lockdown of Ogden attorney Richard H. Reeve for diverting $ 254,000 from a widow’s unlawful death settlement and lied about it when he was caught.
But Reeve claimed he was under mentally “crippling” professional and personal stresses in the 2015 violations, and called on District 2 Judge Noel Hyde to punish him near the lockdown.
The arguments came during a convicting video hearing for the Utah Office of Professional Conduct attorney’s wrongdoing against Reeve.
After a two and a half day bank attempt in January, Hyde ruled that Reeve was guilty of dishonesty, failed to secure three clients’ funds, and wrongly cut a settlement on a paralegal.
The OPC filed the case in 2017, accusing Reeve of ill-treating a $ 380,000 settlement awarded to Jean Tonioli in a death against a drug manufacturer. The Roy wife’s husband, Bob, died in New York City when the couple returned from a Baltic vacation in 2011.
The funds were given out in early 2015 and instead of being deposited into his law firm’s account for distribution to Tonioli, Reeve had the funds deposited into his personal account.
OPC attorney Barbara Townsend reviewed evidence showing Reeve paid $ 167,000 from Toniolis over the next few months for items such as a vehicle purchase, $ 16,000 for a woman who would later become his wife, vacation, a wedding ring and spent the cost of the marriage band.
“I think we have a lockdown,” Townsend said, noting that the evidence established rules of conduct that prohibits “dishonesty, fraud, fraud or misrepresentation”.
Townsend pointed to a table Reeve created to give to Tonioli and others that she said looked like it hadn’t touched the funds and deposited them with the law firm in February 2015.
Reeve lied to her after his employer presented him with the problems in September this year. Reeve said again Friday that he “panicked” and lied, but later that day admitted shortcomings and paid Tonioli her verdict plus interest the next day.
One of the elements justifying a ban is whether the attorney’s actions resulted in “serious injuries”.
“The injury caused was not severe as all customer funds were returned,” Reeve said. “There is no evidence of serious injury.”
“Paying back money after you’ve been caught is not much of a mitigation,” Townsend countered during her closing arguments.
Reeve said he was under tremendous psychological pressure at the time because his workload doubled when he took up the case of a seriously ill colleague. His marriage also broke down and he was living in hotels that year, he said.
“This is not an attempt to justify what cannot be justified, but specifically to provide the context,” he said. “The stress I’ve faced has paralyzed me and I’ve failed to face my mistakes and meet my obligations.”
He said he “treated himself” during this time as well.
Reeve added other mitigating factors to his service in the ward, including chairing the board of a nonprofit group and providing regular volunteer legal work for members of the church.
“I worked too many hours and fell behind,” he said. “You can see how I lost track of the details.” The misuse of the settlement means, he said, “was not intended to deceive anyone.”
During the cross-examination, Townsend asked Reeve if he was seeking medical treatment or advice about the stress and anxiety he mentioned. He said he didn’t. “Like I said, I treated myself,” he said.
In her closing arguments, Townsend said Reeve provided no evidence to support his claims of stress, anxiety, and an altered state of mind.
“His state of mind was to know, if not intended,” she said, pointing to Reeve, who intercepted the check and deposited it into his own account.
She said the damage to Tonioli was serious, even though she finally got the money. “She went through a nightmare,” said Townsend. “It was extremely difficult for her after the loss of her husband. Then her lawyer not only lies to her, but he also spent a lot of money on her. “
She argued that his behavior could have been considered criminal, adding that conviction was not required to justify a lockdown in a wrongdoing case.
Reeve’s actions also harmed the public and the legal system, Townsend said. “People have to be able to trust their lawyers. It is very important for a lawyer to maintain his or her integrity. “
Hyde said he would investigate the matter and make a written decision later. Possible penalties range from admonition to blocking.