Patterico's Pontifications

11/28/2007

L.A. Times Sucks Up to Yagman Even As He Is Sentenced to Prison

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General,Scum — Patterico @ 6:41 am

In his story on the Yagman sentencing, anti-LAPD reporter Scott Glover gives prominence to the theme that the government picked on Yagman because he is an anti-establishment hero. Here are the first few paragraphs of Glover’s article. Pay special attention to whose spin is given the primary emphasis.

Stephen G. Yagman, a pugnacious lawyer who made a career of suing the Los Angeles Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, was sentenced Tuesday to three years in federal prison for tax evasion, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud.

He did not go quietly — or quickly.

In an unusual courtroom hearing that spanned three days, Yagman and his attorneys painstakingly went over the evidence in the case and accused the U.S. attorney of targeting him because of his long and confrontational history with the federal government.

“A cage went in search of a bird,” Yagman told U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, quoting from Franz Kafka’s book “The Zurau Aphorisms.” “I’m the bird, and they got me.”

Wearing a blue suit and a sailboat-decorated tie, Yagman also quoted from, or referred to, Woody Allen, Abraham Lincoln and Socrates during more than four hours of oration. At times, he was remorseful, but for the most part, he was defensive.

Government officials, he said, “want to scorch everything around me . . . destroy me.”

Yagman’s sentence, which includes an additional two years of supervised release after his prison term, was significantly less than the nine years that prosecutors had recommended. He is scheduled to surrender to authorities and begin serving his sentence Jan. 15.

The convictions, in all likelihood, mark an end to Yagman’s work as a litigator. It was a career in which he occasionally broke new legal ground and antagonized some of L.A.’s most powerful leaders, often while representing gang members and other criminals who allegedly had been abused by the police.

That’s eight paragraphs packed with Yagman spin about about how this was a politically motivated prosecution against a crusading civil rights attorney. Finally, in paragraph nine, Glover quotes Judge Stephen Wilson as saying that Yagman was guilty and the jury got it right.

Glover probably figures that if he puts the pro-Yagman spin up high, the other stuff that he has to include for “balance” might be stuffed on the back pages. I don’t have the hard copy of the paper to see if this tactic worked; I’ll try to check it out today and report back later. If you have a hard copy, let me know where the jump happens — assuming that this story even made it to the front of the California section.

Not only did Wilson say Yagman was guilty, he said Yagman was a liar — and a bad one:

Ultimately, the judge said he concluded that Yagman had not only committed the crimes, but also lied and fabricated evidence to cover his tracks.

“Frankly, I was shocked by his testimony,” Wilson said, calling it “transparently untrue in so many areas.”

In discussing the facts, Glover retreats to the allegations of the indictment, as if there had been no trial:

The government’s investigation spanned five years and centered on a tax liability totaling more than $100,000. Yagman was indicted in June 2006 on 19 counts of tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.

And what was he convicted of?

According to prosecutors, Yagman transferred his Venice Beach home into his girlfriend’s name, hid money by depositing his income into her bank account — from which he wrote checks — and declared bankruptcy in New York without disclosing his assets in California.

Shortly after claiming he was broke, prosecutors said Yagman spent $2,000 on clothes and shoes on New York’s Madison Avenue, then had a $260 dinner.

Guess what? The jury convicted on all counts (although, unreported in this story, Judge Wilson later overturned some of the guilty verdicts on technical grounds). We’re not just talking about allegations here, or what “prosecutors said” — we’re talking about what the jury found, and what the judge confirmed the jury was right to find.

For a more revealing story, read Patrick McDonald’s L.A. Weekly piece on the sentencing, here.

P.S. I’ll reiterate, as I have before, that I disapprove of prison rape jokes, even about Yagman — and it’s unfortunate that one such joke was made on this site by a commenter, and quoted in the L.A. Weekly article. I will tell you this: the commenter who made the joke had his career essentially ruined by lost a job opportunity due to the actions of Yagman despite having done absolutely nothing wrong. (I spoke with the commenter about his situation on the phone several weeks ago.) Due to the fact that Yagman named the commenter (along with dozens on others) as a defendant in a lawsuit — simply because his name had appeared in a report somewhere — the commenter missed out on a job opportunity he had sought for years. He ended up testifying in the suit for five minutes about his complete lack of involvement in the events at issue, and was dismissed out — but the damage was already done. Police departments don’t like to hire defendants in lawsuits, and during the years-long pendency of the suit, he lost his other opportunity. So while I deplore his prison rape joke, the commenter had good reason to be upset at Yagman. I may tell his story here in detail some day. Yagman affected a lot of people in a negative fashion, and there is indeed a lot of glee among law enforcement types now that he is going to prison.

UPDATE: The commenter clarifies that his career wasn’t “ruined” — that was poor phrasing on my part. He did lose out on a job opportunity that had a significant effect on his life, however. Apologies for the infelicitous phrasing.

23 Responses to “L.A. Times Sucks Up to Yagman Even As He Is Sentenced to Prison”

  1. Where are those gatekeepers on the LA Times? Thank you Patterico for putting the news in proper perspective.

    Alta Bob (be261c)

  2. Yagman lied to the Judge and jury during his testimony in the case? Wow. I wonder if he had ever “embellished” the truth in any of the cases where he was only an advocate?

    I’ll get flack for this, but in my 15 years experience as a prosecutor I’ve got to say that there are a lot more Steve Yagmans in the criminal defense bar than the members of that bar want to admit. He’s just more audacious than most.

    wls (d93e70)

  3. I’ll get flack for this …

    Not from me. I’ve known defense lawyers even worse than Yagman. They sell their clients down the river constantly. Their philosophy is “take the money and run”. One waste of a law school seat actually said that she did not interview her clients in jail because “it smells bad and they smell bad”.

    On the other hand, during a Thanksgiving get-together, I talked to a trial judge who was similarly bitter over the prosecutors in her courtroom. According to her, they were indifferent to the point of being pro-defense in building their cases. 😉

    nk (09a321)

  4. The indignation that Yagman’s partisans have for the fact that Yagman’s shenanigans caught up with him is indeed feeding the glee in many quarters including my own.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  5. Karma happens. Yagman has had it coming for a long, long time. It must be especially tough and even professionally demeaning to be branded as not a very good liar. Still, as Yagman was qouted “Three years is six less than nine and the result speaks for itself.” I think the judge cut Yagman more slack than he deserved.

    Mike Myers (31af82)

  6. retired vice cop is saying his whole career went down the toilet because yagman sued him unsuccessfully? do you have any idea how many police organizations there are in america where, if you have a good track record, you can get a job busting hookers and druggies? seems like it was a thin career to begin with. as deplorable as prison rape is, i guess it’s ok here if the victim costed you a job offer.

    assistant devil's advocate (5258b5)

  7. Do you think it’s likely Yagman will be disbarred or does the California bar sometimes use a long-term suspension in cases like this?

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  8. It’s over. Not much of a sentence. But..I am still FULL of profound glee that his career is also over.
    Judge Wilson says “The jury got it right!” His joke of a prison sentence for Yagman sure the hell doesn’t reflect that does it!
    I have already expressed my opinion as to who will greet Yagman. My other concern is Yagman’s health….if what he said is true.
    If he leaves prison early, like in a box, I sure the hell will not miss him.
    What goes around comes around Mr. Yagman!!!

    Jerry LeFrois/LAPD/RHD/RET (dd380b)

  9. DRJ, felony convictions with an element of dishonesty will result in disbarment even in the rather lax standards of the California Bar.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  10. Illinois’s standards are anything but lax and an attorney who was disbarred while incarcerated for crimes similar to Yagman’s was reinstated when freed. The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission initially denied his reinstatement because he refused to admit guilt but was overruled by the Illinois Supreme Court who ruled that remorse was not a requirement.

    nk (09a321)

  11. nk, I’m not knowledgable about Illinois. However, I used to practice in California and don’t think much of the disciplinary process there. When I moved to Colorado, among the things I appreciated about practicing law in Colorado, besides a more collegial bar, was that the discipline here is much more serious.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  12. nk #3…indifference…
    It sounds like the “criminal injustice system” causes a great deal of burn-out on both sides of the bar (and on the bench too). Too many individuals involved in the system seem to just “phone it in”. And then they wonder why the public at large has such a low opinion of them.

    Disbarment and re-instatement for Yagman…
    If the Bar holds open hearings on any attempt to re-instate, they better book a VERY large room.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  13. Yagman did not “ruin” my career. I had a very long & satisfying career. However, he did in fact cost me a professional opportunity I was very interested in. if not for yagman, I would still be doing that job & not be retired. There were some additional unforeseen consequences such as some very serious injuries I would not have suffered if I had taken the other job. As a result I live in a great deal of physical pain 24/7. Yagman did me no favors, that is for sure.

    As for my comment about dropping the soap, it was purely an off the cuff comment. I do not condone any type of prison violence, not even to Yagman. It’s likely he will be in a minimum security facility & no one will lay a hand on him. I want Yagman to be free to reflect on the people he has wronged. I have no doubt Yagman has made much harsher comments about police officers.

    It’s ionic my comments get singled out when a link to much harsher comments by a former a LAPD SIS detective were posted here posted here.

    My career does not need to be discussed beyond that.

    Retired Vice Cop (7cfd24)

  14. Actually, I thought Patterico was talking about Jerry. Jerry, I hope you’re not going to be committing some federal crime just for the opportunity to be locked up with Yagman. 😉

    nk (09a321)

  15. My comments were quoted in the LA Weekly article. I can’t read Pat’s mind so I’m not sure what comments he was making reference to. It was ironic mine were quoted when they were perhaps the least harsh of comments made along those lines.

    I appreciate Pat sharing my story. I don’t think it needs to go beyond what has been told. While I’m happy justice was done, I’m a bit disappointed in the sentence. Thanks again Pat. Lunch is on my anytime.

    Retired Vice Cop (7cfd24)

  16. And NK, no federal crimes or any crimes for that manner for me. I like my freedom. As for Yagman, it seems to come down to his ego & ability to game the legal system. Those of us in law enforcement called it playing the “police lottery.”

    Retired Vice Cop (7cfd24)

  17. I want Yagman to be free to reflect on the people he has wronged.

    Sadly, it’s far more likely he’ll merely reflect on how the people wronged him.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  18. As to his sentence, it’s par for the course considering the crimes and his lack of (known) priors. I do wonder whether California or New York will charge him under state theft laws (without knowing their statutes of limitations).

    As to his reinstatement, if the people he stole from are considered to have been his clients he will never be reinstated before he makes full restitution. Hognose’s “Hell’s Angels group morality” is wrong in one respect. We lawyers are forgiven many things but never for screwing our clients, either literally or figuratively.

    nk (09a321)

  19. Mr, Jacobs,

    I suspect you are absolutely correct in regards to #17…

    The thing about Yagman that really bothered me was his open hatred of police officers. He was big on seeking punitive damages against individual officers. In a very small number of cases, officers may deserve punitive damages against them. Seeking punitive damages against officers was a game Yagman seemed to enjoy. While an officers employer can elect to pay punitive damages, Yagan always sought to have to officer pay. He wanted to hurt the officers on a personal level.

    The suit Yagman brought against LAPD in the North Hollywood B of A shootout was perhaps his most frivolous. Those officers went through a horrific ordeal on the street that day. Undoubtedly Yagmans actions actions in the court only deepened the psychological trauma for many of those involved that day.

    Yagman seemed to be obsessed with the LAPD SIS unit. I seem to recall that he called them a death squad in reference to the number violent criminals they shot. In the cases SIS worked the witnesses were too fearful to testify in court & in some cases been murdered. This left no choice but to bring in SIS & have them conduct surveillance till the crooks committed a robbery or other violent crime. These crooks were people with lengthy records of violent crimes. It’s no surprise they chose to shoot it out when confronted by the police. Yagman seemed to be very proud of his suits against the officers in SIS. In the SIS litigation, the real death squads were Yagmans clients.

    Retired Vice Cop (7cfd24)

  20. You need to be corrected “Retired Vice Cop!”
    I did NOT post comments about “prison violence” on Yagman. My PERSONAL letter to Yagman expressing my wish was posted here….And, NO nk, I am not planning anything. Time and Yagman’s health will take care of everything.

    Jerry LeFrois/LAPD/RHD/RET (dd380b)

  21. Mr. LeFrois. I was making reference to the link to your letter to Yagan. I’m sorry if I did not make that clear. http://patterico.com/images/Summons%20&%20Complaint.pdf
    Page 4…. As they say on the street, my bad. I guess Bubba is just the character in a Mike Diamond plumbing commercial.

    Retired Vice Cop (7cfd24)

  22. As for my comment about dropping the soap, it was purely an off the cuff comment. I do not condone any type of prison violence, not even to Yagman.

    I’m sure you don’t. But it’s perfectly consistent to condemn a crime in the strongest terms and regard it with the utmost abhorrence, and yet to wish that it happens to someone. There are a number of people that I think the world would be a better place without, and I would dance for joy if someone were to murder them. “It couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow”, sort of thing.

    Precedent for this attitude comes straight from the Bible: “Doomed Babylon, I hope someone pays you back for what you have done to us. I hope someone seizes and crushes your infants against a rock!” (Psalm 137:8-9) The psalmist is certainly not condoning such a horrible crime, but he’s predicting that sooner or later what went around will come around, and he will feel that a measure of justice has been done in the world.

    Hillel expressed a similar idea in less emotional terms: “He also saw a skull floating on the water, and said to it: ‘Because you drowned others, you were drowned, and in the end those who drowned you will drown’. (Avoth 2:6)

    Milhouse (027917)

  23. Millhouse,

    What we think & what we do are two very different things. Though I may detest Yagman personally, if he was the victim of a violent crime & I was assigned to investigate, I would do my job as a professional in an attempt to bring the guilty to justice. Thats what sets me & other police officers apart from the likes of the Yagmans in the world.

    As for dropping the soap, isn’t that just typical of a reporter misconstruing a cops words? I was simply concerned Yagman could slip on the wet slippery tile floor in the shower while picking up the soap.

    I enjoyed your quotation from the Bible. In law enforcement we use more simple phrases like “what goes around comes around” & “You get what you deserve.”

    Retired Vice Cop (7cfd24)


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