(Source: By Ed Enoch, Opelika-Auburn News, Ala.) – A federal judge sentenced a disbarred Auburn attorney who pleaded guilty to wire fraud to almost four years in prison Tuesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Fuller sentenced James Boyd Douglas Jr. to 45 months in prison after approving a plea deal between Douglas and prosecutors for a reduced sentence and no further charges.
Douglas’ attorney Trip Walton said the defense was pleased with the sentence. The wire fraud charge carries a potential sentence of as much as 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Douglas was given a lesser sentence for cooperating with prosecutors.
Walton characterized his client’s legal trouble as part of a personal struggle with a gambling addiction.
In March, Douglas admitted to taking more than $2 million in proceeds from residential mortgage loan transactions overseen by his law firm during a six-year period. Prosecutors say clients and lenders were told the loans had been repaid. Walton said the money fed Douglas’ gambling habit.
“He didn’t buy himself cars and houses, lavish things; it all just went to feed a gambling addiction,” Walton said.
Walton said Douglas would continue with counseling for his gambling addiction while incarcerated. Walton said Douglas has been participating in gambling-addiction support programs since surrendering his law license in the fall of 2011.
Walton said his client offered heartfelt apologies to his family, the court and the Auburn community, among others, ahead of his sentencing in a Montgomery federal courtroom on Tuesday. In March, Douglas said he was “profoundly sorry” for his actions.
Fuller also ordered Douglas to pay restitution, which will be determined during a hearing at a later date, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Clark Morris.
Prosecutor Jared Morris said Douglas could have his sentence reduced by a few months for good behavior. Jared Morris said Douglas, who was allowed to remain free on Tuesday, must report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Oct. 2 to begin his sentence.
Douglas, a former partner at McNeal and Douglas in Auburn, successfully petitioned the Alabama State Bar for disbarment in October 2011. Douglas’ former partner Marrell J. McNeal denied knowledge of the fraud.
Douglas, McNeal and the law firm also face pending civil lawsuits over the fraud filed by former clients.
©2012 the Opelika-Auburn News (Opelika, Ala.)
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