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In re Verdiramo

decided.: May 31, 1984.

IN THE MATTER OF VINCENT L. VERDIRAMO, AN ATTORNEY-AT-LAW


On an Order to Show Cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.

For suspension -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Clifford, Schreiber, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern and Garibaldi.

Per Curiam

The essential facts in this disciplinary case have been set forth in the Decision and Recommendations of the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB).

In 1975, the respondent, who was primarily involved in criminal law matters, was acting as an Administrative Aide to Congressman Henry Helstoski. He was also a member of the Congressman's team of defense attorneys who represented Helstoski in a federal criminal matter. On April 17, 1976, the respondent, who had just returned from a trip to Atlanta, received a telephone message to call Helstoski. At Helstoski's request, the respondent drove directly to Helstoski's office. Helstoski introduced respondent to Joel Urdang, who was about to testify before a federal Grand Jury with regard to Helstoski's alleged failure to report certain income to the Internal Revenue Service. The respondent was aware that an individual named John Mazella, an employee of Helstoski, had previously testified before the Grand Jury and had made certain misstatements during his testimony. The respondent knew that Urdang's testimony could contradict that of Mazella. Thus, during this conversation with Urdang, the respondent stated -- "Look, do me a favor. Just don't hurt the old guy, will you?"

The respondent testified at a hearing before the District VI Ethics Committee that he was trying to protect Mazella, who was old, was in questionable health, and had a nice family. Mazella was "a genuinely nice human being who screwed up what checks went into what account." [Reference to transcript omitted.] His conversation with Urdang lasted about one and one half minutes. At the time the respondent spoke to Urdang concerning Mazella he was aware that he was asking Urdang to lie before the Grand Jury. [Reference to transcript omitted.]

On June 2, 1976, the respondent was charged in two counts of a twelve count indictment with obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and influencing a witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503. The respondent entered a guilty plea on September 28, 1976 to the charge of influencing a witness. On September 21, 1977, the respondent was sentenced to a term of five years imprisonment, with the suspension of all but 60 days of that term, and probation for the remaining four years and ten months. A fine of $2,500 was assessed as a condition of probation. Execution of sentence was stayed until October 11, 1977. The remaining Count of that indictment against the respondent was dismissed.

The DRB also noted that two other federal indictments that were pending against respondent at that time had been dismissed

as part of the plea agreement. The indictments and their dispositions were summarized as follows:

1. CR 74-313 -- The respondent and several others were charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and illegal wiretapping resulting from the discovery of a wiretap in respondent's office. None of the indicted individuals were ever tried, and respondent states that an investigation by the State Police at his request revealed that the wiretap equipment was purchased by the Federal Government.

2. CR 75-521 -- Respondent was charged with conspiracy and mail fraud for allegedly overvaluing the contents of a house in which he had an interest in a claim mailed to an insurance company after the house had been vandalized and burned by unknown individuals. His partner in that investment was also charged but the matter never proceeded to trial.

The DRB mentioned respondent's contention "that, because of his activities as a criminal defense attorney these indictments had no merit and were part of a course of conduct of certain individuals within the federal government who were 'trying to wear (him) down.'" The respondent served approximately 45 days in a federal ...


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