BOSTON — High-profile Boston criminal defense attorney Robert George is going to prison.
Caught in a DEA sting and convicted of helping an undercover government informant to launder drug money, George received a sentence of 42 months on Wednesday.
A ‘Fall From Grace’
Judge Nathaniel Gorton is from the Gortons of Gloucester. The family’s name is attached to the seafood company, and Judge Gorton’s name is also attached to much heavier than average prison sentences. So Robert George dreaded getting fried like a fish when he came to court. Prosecutors wanted to put him away for more than five years.
“He was not a good man when he engaged with these other two individuals and conspired to launder drug proceeds,” said U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz.
It took a jury less than two hours to convict George after watching and listening to tapes secretly recorded by government-paid informant Ronald Dardinski.
At the trial, where Dardinski’s credibility was savaged, he testified that George offered to help him launder $200,000 in drug profits, found the mortgage broker to do the cleaning and then got a $20,000 fee.
“Mr. Dardinski was not the only piece of evidence in this case,” Ortiz said. “In this case you also had the actual words of Bob George on tape recordings and so that’s what the jury saw.”
“This is not a good person,” prosecutor Laura Kaplan told the judge. George “has expressed no remorse and accepted no responsibility.”
Defense attorney Robert Goldstein asked the judge for a sentence of 18 months.
“I can tell you I’ve studied the tapes intensely and I wholeheartedly disagree with the government’s narrative in terms of what those tapes amount to in this case,” Goldstein said.
A former client with a grudge, Dardinski is a professional informant: a career criminal who the DEA has paid $75,000 to over the years. Invoices obtained by WBUR show he was paid $6,700 in cash just after George’s arrest.
“Your Honor,” George said in addressing a court for perhaps his last time, ”I could not ever plead guilty to these charges because I was not guilty.”
It was a brave statement to make since it risked the judge’s disapproval for not taking responsibility for the crime.
“I am a convicted felon at almost 58-years-old. My fall from grace has been long and hard,” George said, telling the judge he would appeal his conviction.
“He’s regretful for some of that conduct, but has maintained none of that rises to a criminal offense,” George’s lawyer Robert Goldstein said.
Now came the stern judge with the reputation for being a heavy hitter.
“You so disgracefully and inexplicably fell off the straight and narrow path,” Judge Gorton said. ”It’s incomprehensible to me how a smart, respected defense attorney could stoop so low [to associate and aid] common criminals whose business is to spread poison through our community.”
But the judge said he was also influenced by the letters and statements that vouched for George.
“The judge acknowledged and recognized all of that good and imposed a very significant deviation from the advisory guideline of 63 months,” Goldstein said.
Three and a half years in prison. Relatively speaking, it was a relief for George.
As a final penalty the judge allowed the government to seize George’s Lexus and $39,000 in cash. They are assets that the government will now share with its informant, the notorious Ronald Dardinski.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz seemed unaware.
“No, I don’t think that’s accurate,” she said when asked about the deal. “I don’t think that’s accurate at all.”
Ortiz didn’t know the government had agreed to and given Dardinski 10 percent of the assets seized from another target he set up in this case. WBUR has obtained the signed receipt for the first payment of $9,500 dollars. That, even though the prosecutor standing beside Ortiz has acknowledged the deal in another court document.
“I do not know the specifics of that nor should I be explaining that because we do not disclose or provide in detail what our investigative operations are,” Ortiz said. “He should get what he deserves and what he’s entitled to.”
What he’s entitled to is laid out in the DEA invoices and the agreement WBUR has seen, and by his own court testimony. The U.S. Attorney’s Office referred us to the DEA for the details and the DEA told us it can not divulge payments or arrangements with informants.
So, at the end of the day, Robert George is disgraced and at the end of his legal career. And Ron Dardinski has just made about $6,000 and part of a Lexus.
This post was updated with the Morning Edition feature story.