When it comes to crooked colleagues, California lawyers can remain silent but think better of the entire profession when they see a real crook. A lawyer’s character matters, and when one of his colleagues is a serial offender, the lawyer’s own conduct may become more important. Last year, a federal jury sentenced a California lawyer in one of the longest and most complex cases of its kind, finding him guilty of a major crime conspiracy after he allegedly sent two clients to meet with an undercover FBI agent posing as a wealthy investor so he could provide them with stolen property.
It would be hard to imagine a more compelling story about California lawyer ethics, and one that will be playing out all too soon in a case not far from here. But the jury’s verdict in the case of Joseph T. Gallione III, of Los Gatos, California, should send a clear and direct message to rogue lawyers throughout the nation, and to Los Gatos itself. At this point, it seems clear that Mr. Gallione is a serial offender who is willing to do anything for a dollar.
Mr. Gallione is a highly respected member of the Los Gatos legal community who has served in several different positions at the local city, county and state levels. In his legal work, he has played a significant role in both prosecuting and defending people in criminal matters, and the jury saw only evidence that Mr. Gallione was an excellent attorney.
The jury in this case, however, held the view that he was a serial killer, and this is the first indication that Mr. Gallione is not just a thief who broke the rules but also a crook. In the jury’s eyes, he did not merely violate the usual ethical standards governing lawyers but crossed the line from stealing to a more disturbing form of theft – a theft of trust.
Mr. Gallione was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. The jury found him guilty of those crimes on the basis of evidence that showed, among other things, that Mr. Gallione’s clients were duped into believing they were dealing with a rich investor who was going to provide them with valuable properties that were actually stolen property. The jury found him guilty of a second count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, but the judge only fined him $6,000, or about 13 percent of the maximum fine available with the state of California. The jury convicted him of one