Lawyer gets 2-year suspension for smuggling papers out of
A Berkeley defense attorney must surrender her law license
for two years for smuggling documents out of jail on behalf of a defendant later
convicted in the notorious murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey. Lorna
Patton Brown [#133795], 67, was
suspended for four years, stayed, placed on three years’ probation and ordered
to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Jan. 5, 2014.
Brown initially stipulated to two counts of misconduct
related to her representation of accused murderer Yusuf Bey IV, but the
California Supreme Court returned the matter for further consideration as to
the recommended discipline.
In concluding that Brown’s behavior warranted more than the
six-month period of actual suspension she stipulated to, State Bar Court Judge
Pat McElroy wrote that Brown committed acts involving concealment and
dishonesty and that she “knew she should not have been relaying personal
messages from her client without the permission of jail authorities.
“Respondent willfully ignored her duties as an attorney, as
well as the health and safety of the witnesses who planned to testify against
her client. And when the District Attorney’s Office began investigating the
matter and questioned respondent about her actions, she lied,” McElroy wrote in
her decision. “All told, the ramifications of respondent’s misconduct could
have been devastating.”
Brown was appointed in August 2009 as counsel for Bey, who
was indicted on three counts of murder, after Bey’s previous attorney withdrew
from the case because he was unable to control his client. Brown’s misconduct
sprang from a March 2010 visit she made to Bey at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin,
during which he gave her legal documents. The papers included grand jury and
witness interview transcripts and a card addressed to his common-law wife,
Alaia Bey. The card contained written material that Brown should have not taken
from the jail without first getting permission.
A couple of days later, Brown met Bey’s sister-in-law Aisha
Taylor on a street corner, where she gave her documents in manila envelopes,
including the card for Alaia and a list of witnesses’ names Brown placed in an
envelope so Taylor could pass them along to Bey’s “number one soldier” Gary
Popoff. Authorities learned about the documents from a confidential informant and
recovered the envelopes from Popoff shortly after Taylor gave them to him.
When first interviewed by investigators from the district
attorney’s office, Brown denied removing the documents from the jail without
permission. She said she did not know about the greeting card and had not helped
deliver the witness list to Popoff. Brown asked to be removed from the case
later that month over a conflict of interest and ultimately volunteered to be
interviewed a second time, during which she admitted to lying.
In mitigation, Brown had no prior record of discipline in 22
years of practicing law, cooperated with the State Bar during the disciplinary
investigation and proceedings and showed remorse and a willingness to accept
responsibility for her misconduct. She received limited mitigation for
testimony from six character witnesses.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Counsel Robin Brune.