We've written extensively about lawyers who clearly have lied in court documents--and pretty much gotten away with it. So we were surprised to learn that a former University of Alabama law professor actually is being held accountable for lying to law-enforcement officials.
The case also raises questions about the fair administration of criminal justice, another major topic here at Legal Schnauzer.
Tari Devon Williams, a former assistant dean at the UA law school's Public Interest Institute, was sentenced last week to one year probation for lying to authorities about her husband, who was under investigation for using stolen identities to forge prescriptions and sell the drugs.
Williams pleaded guilty last October to federal crimes involving obstruction of justice and making a false statement to a law enforcement officer.
Williams' husband, Isaac Smith, had entered a plea agreement acknowledging he had engaged in a conspiracy to commit health-care fraud.
We certainly don't endorse what Williams did, but we have to ask these questions: Why is she being punished when other lawyers routinely get away with lying in court proceedings--essentially lying to judges? Is it OK to lie to a judge but not to a law-enforcement officer?
Just consider a few stunts we've seen lawyers pull.
First, there's our old friend, William E. Swatek, who puts the "dirt" in the term dirt bag. We caught Swatek red-handed lying in a court document, and no one has done a thing about it--to this day. Here is how we described it in an earlier post:
During the course of litigation, Swatek filed a Motion to Clarify (dated November 16, 2001), seeking to join three additional neighbors in the lawsuit against me. The motion claims that the three additional neighbors had viewed photographs of property belonging to them and wanted to assert conversion claims against me. However, one of the neighbors, Eric Hallmark, told me in a phone conversion that he was not familiar with the motion and had no intention of joining a lawsuit against me. At a deposition on December 3, 2003, Swatek stated that prior to filing his Motion to Clarify, seeking to add Hallmark (and two other neighbors) to the lawsuit against me, he had a meeting with them in his office. Swatek further stated that he was “positive” the motion was drafted with their permission. Obviously these statements by Swatek are at odds with Hallmark's statements, which I have on tape. The motion Swatek crafted clearly was fraudulent, and he used the U.S. mail to send it to me in order to seek an advantage during litigation.
I'm not a prosecutor, but Bill Swatek's actions sure sound an awful lot like mail fraud. I reported it to multiple officials in the Bush Justice Department, and nobody did a thing about it. I reported it to the Alabama State Bar, and nobody did a thing about it.
So why is Tari Devon Williams going on probation?
Swatek hardly is alone in his shady tactics. Two Birmingham lawyers, Wayne Morse and Laura Nettles, have knowingly filed false documents in a lawsuit my wife and brought against debt collectors NCO and Ingram & Associates. Here is how we described it in an earlier post:
Wayne Morse, an attorney for Ingram & Associates, had filed a motion claiming he never received an audio file of my conversation with one of his client's representatives. Morse, who is with the Birmingham firm Waldrep Stewart & Kendrick, alleged that I had "withheld" the evidence, and it therefore should be excluded. There is a slight problem with Morse's claims--they aren't true. And our lawyers have filed e-mails with the court showing that Morse indeed received the audio files.
Now, lawyers for NCO have joined Morse's bogus motion, claiming that they also did not receive the audio files. Never mind that our lawyers have filed e-mails with the court showing that NCO's lawyers did receive the audio files.
Laura Nettles, an attorney for the Birmingham firm Lloyd Gray & Whitehead, wrote the motion for NCO.
The motions from Morse and Nettles clearly were designed to deceive U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon, who is handling the case, and affect the outcome of litigation. Is it obstruction of justice to lie to a federal judge? I intend to file complaints with the appropriate authorities, but will anyone take it seriously? I'm not holding my breath.
Again, why is Tari Devon Williams going on probation?
As for the fair administration of justice, consider Williams' husband. Isaac Smith was charged with health-care fraud, and he will pay a serious price for it.
But what about Rob Riley, a Homewood attorney and the son of Governor Bob Riley? As we have reported in a series of posts, a whistleblower has accused Riley and several accomplices (some with ties to UAB) of operating a company, Performance Group LLC, that practices health-care fraud. The Bush Justice Department refused to even investigate, and so far, we've seen no signs that the Obama DOJ will do any better.
We certainly don't advocate a "get out of jail free" card for everybody. Tari Devon Williams and Isaac Smith should be held accountable for their wrongdoing.
But what about Bill Swatek, Rob Riley, Wayne Morse, and Laura Nettles? Will they be held accountable? Is there reason to think our system makes any effort at applying the law equally?