story from the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press about a well-known long-time criminal defense attorney who's been charged with embezzlement and theft. John Watts, (pic) an Allegan, Michigan attorney of 37 years has been charged in a case that originally began as a lawyer's disciplinary charge resulting in a reprimand and probation but has now evolved into criminal charges. Read the report for yourself, but it sounds to me like Mr. Watts is getting whacked for getting paid, albeit in an unorthodox manner. Here's an excerpt from John Tunison's account:
Court records show Watts is charged with two counts of false pretenses to obtain $1,000 to $20,000, embezzlement of $1,000 to $20,000, unlawfully driving away an automobile and possessing a false vehicle title. The alleged offenses date to 2007. Sheriff's Lt. Scott Matice said the embezzlement allegation is related to business associates as victims, and the false title charge is related to someone Watts once represented.
Van Buren County prosecutors are handling the case because of the potential conflict, given Watts' work history in Allegan County. A warrant was issued for Watts' arrest Tuesday. In one of the criminal cases, a woman is listed as an embezzlement victim. According to a recent complaint before the Attorney Discipline Board, Watts represented her in a 2004 divorce case. Watts claimed an attorney's lien on her interest of the couple's property.
Her ex-husband vacated the property, declared bankruptcy and the house fell into foreclosure. He gave his ex-wife the property in a quit-claim drafted by Watts, records said. From 2005 to 2008, Watts allegedly rented the property, which had a $96,000 mortgage, records said. He did not pay the woman, records said, and claimed he actually owned the property, the complaint said. At one point, he sued the renters for back rent, records showed.
The Attorney Grievance Commission alleged he became involved in the couple's bankruptcy proceedings 'solely to benefit (Watts), himself, by attempting to obtain monies and/or property.' In 2007, Watts was put on probation by the state Attorney Discipline Board for two years after he pleaded no contest to allegations he failed to communicate his fee, failed to hold client funds in a proper account and failed to disclose all facts in his answer to a request for an investigation, records showed.
I said at the beginning of this blawg that I'd help you read between the lines, this story is about a lawyer who did legal work for a couple of clients and in order to get paid had to go some lengths, because the clients could not pay him with cash at hand. I know this sounds strange if you think lawyers are these nicely tailored souls who send out invoices and clients timely pay the bill. Dream on.
A follow up article provides some much needed balance and possible insight into the tenuousness of the claim against Mr. Watts. I'm not saying that this guy was some sort of paragon of lawyer billing ethics, he clearly was not--but, I also feel some real empathy for where he finds himself in his efforts to get paid and pay his bills.
Don't you just love it how the media dragged his wife's name into their article? What did she do?