Friday, July 8, 2011

Shame, Disgrace, Pain--Been There

James Agar at the Grand Rapids Press reports on the sentencing of  "a 3d generation" lawyer, Nancy Dilley (pic) who along with her husband, Charles Rominger, Jr. are going to federal prison for a variety of tax offense including not filing returns, paying taxes due, and in the case of Mr. Rominger, actively evading payment of taxes.  They claim their financial problems can be traced to losses sustained in a Ponzi scheme. 

Obviously, I strongly relate to Ms. Dilley's circumstances, perhaps an excerpt from Mr. Agar's story will illustrate why I do:

As a third-generation lawyer in a prominent legal family, Nancy Dilley's court appearance Wednesday brought nothing but shame.  She stood before U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney in Kalamazoo, to be sentenced in a tax case. The charge was a misdemeanor, but nothing that Dilley – described as a nurturing mother, caring friend and hard-working, respected attorney – could have envisioned.

“She is mortally embarrassed and ashamed to have disrespected her family and the legacy that the Dilleys created over three generations,” attorney Mark Pendery wrote in a court filing.

Dilley, who earlier pleaded guilty to failing to file a federal tax return in 2007, was sentenced to eight months in prison [ . . . ]

Once released, she will serve one year on supervised release. She owes $86,703 in restitution.  She is to self-surrender when notified by the government.

Her husband, attorney Charles Rominger Jr. (pic), awaiting sentencing for tax evasion, asked that she avoid incarceration.   In court documents, he urged the judge to blame him, not his wife, for tax troubles. He faces up to five years in prison[.]   Rominger said that he is the “real target” of federal prosecutors, who used “my conduct to exacerbate Nancy's sentence.”

“In sentencing my wife, you should not attribute my conduct to her,” he wrote. “She is well regarded for her work ethic, honesty and compassion. She has served her family legacy well and is humbled by this shameful event.”

He asked Maloney to “not separate Nancy” from their son, “especially in light of my pending sentence.”

The couple failed to file federal tax returns from 2001-2007, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Borgula said.  He said Dilley, living on a 68.5-acre horse ranch in Ada Township, has not provided an adequate explanation, Borgula said.

“For example, during 2006 and 2007 alone, over $350,000 in income flowed undetected through (Dilley) and Rominger's defunct bank accounts, from which the following disbursements were made: $16,415 to clean the house and provide in-house day-care, $57,780 to American Express … $8,200 in care payments for expensive cars registered to third parties … ,” Borgula wrote.

He said, however, that Dilley had “genuine remorse … from the guilt of staining the Dilley family name.”

Dilley, a life-long Grand Rapids-area resident, had no previous criminal record. Her family, friends, clients and pastor wrote letters on her behalf. Former Kent County Circuit Judge Dennis Kolenda said he never expected to vouch for a defendant's integrity, but wrote: “Nonetheless, although I regret the circumstance which necessitates my first such letter, I write it unreservably on behalf of a still-trusted colleague.”

“Ms. Dilley's conviction creates for her a depth of pain and embarrassment unique to her as a member of the Dilley family,” Pendery, her attorney, wrote in court documents.

Her grandfather started a law practice in Grand Rapids, and her father, Albert, invited her to attend law school and join the family firm after she graduated from the University of Michigan.

“There is nothing more painful for her than the disappointment she has brought to her family. There is nothing more painful for her than the footnote in the Dilley family history that she stood before the court also as a criminal,” her attorney wrote.
There's a picture of me that is almost identical to the one of Ms. Dilley, in shock, tear-stained, shamed.  It's the US Marshal's booking photo taken after I entered my guilty plea.  Her US Marshal photo probably comes from her sentencing.  I feel her pain. 

There are obvious differences between Ms. Dilley's situation and mine.  She pleaded to a misdemeanor, my offense was one count of attempted tax evasion, a felony.  She received 8 months, I did 5 months. She was living a much more luxurious lifestyle by all indications, but we both clearly were in way over our heads and what was once prominent legal careers are gone. 

But, truth be told, there is life after the law.  It's not easy.  The financial stressors following a federal tax conviction may never go away, but one day at a time there are ways to resume a valuable life.  I found that attending meetings of the OurState Lawyers' Assistance Program and Alcoholics Anonymous where I share my experience with others and more importantly--get help.  I know this works for me and others say it helps them.  I have hope that maybe I will return as a licensed lawyer, someday--then again that may not happen.  I do know that whatever I end up doing my empathy for others, especially for those in legal peril has grown enormously.  Good luck. 

Hang in there. 


  1. Why advise her to seek help from AA? There's no indication in the story that she is an alcoholic or that alcohol had anything to do with either of their troubles. This looks like a case of old fashioned greed.

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  3. Kolenda and Rominger are up to something, if investigated the judge is probably guilty of a money trail. This is the same pair that tried to sue me, jury found not negligent however this judge threw the verdict out of the window. I won in appeals, with Kolenda making a signed statement something is fishy here. I would love to see an investigation