Md. attorney dismayed after conviction
Following an eight-day trial, a jury in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt took only two hours to convict College Park-based attorney Walter L. Blair of nine counts of money laundering and one count each of witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and making a false statement to an IRS agent.
The jury also convicted Blair of failing to file federal tax returns for 2003 and 2004. In an interview on Monday, Blair, 58, expressed anger at the Dec. 22 result -- and the speed with which the jury deliberated.
"You tell me how it's possible a jury can go through 14 counts in two hours?" Blair said. "I'm so sad that that's all I'm worth to society -- two hours to consider my fate in a 14-count indictment."
According to a press release from the Maryland U.S. Attorney's office, federal prosecutors presented evidence during the trial that Blair met with two people in his College Park office in November 2003. One person was related to a drug dealer from Richmond who had disappeared and was later found murdered; the drug dealer's girlfriend was also murdered.
The relative and a colleague sought advice from Blair about what to do with the drug dealer's safe, according to the press release. After learning about the circumstances surrounding the drug money in the safe, Blair directed the relative to retrieve the cash from the safe; the relative deliverd the money in a duffel bag to Blair in his office, according to the press release.
To conceal the nature of the drug proceeds, Blair created a false story about the source of the money, and directed another attorney in his office to form a corporation -- to be controlled by the drug dealer's relative -- to purchase real estate and to pay lawyers for the drug dealer's associates, including himself, according to the press release.
Blair is scheduled to be sentenced March 10. He faces a potentially lengthy sentence, as each of the money laundering counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Blair has filed papers asking for the convictions to be thrown out and for a new trial. In the interview, Blair said that case law has established that defense attorneys are exempt from being prosecuted for money laundering, if the funds in questions are from criminal defense clients.
After he was indicted in the fall of 2008, Blair filed a lawsuit against federal prosecutors, alleging he was being targeted because of his race and national origin. Blair offered no evidence to support the allegations.
In 2008, a county jury awarded one of Blair's clients -- who was shot and wounded by a county police officer -- $2.4 million, finding that the officer violated the rights of Blair's client. Nearly a year later, the case was retried, and the second jury found against Blair's client, Darron M. Shaw.
-- Ruben Castaneda
December 29, 2009; 11:02 AM ET
Categories: From the Courthouse , Pr. George's , Ruben Castaneda
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