New City attorney Lawrence A. Weissmann has been suspended from practicing law for two years for fixing parking tickets.
Weissmann argued to the New York Second Appellate Division that his crime was not serious, but the attorney grievance committee that sought the suspension said he had “perverted the administration of justice.”
Weissmann was appointed special prosecutor in 2016 to handle traffic tickets and zoning violations, on the recommendation of Spring Valley Trustee Vilair Fonvil.
Fonvil, who is not an attorney, attended plea negotiations with defendants charged with traffic violations, according to the appellate court, and occasionally directed Weissmann to justify favorable plea dispositions.
Nathalie Rosene, for instance, had been issued two summonses for illegally parking in a handicapped spot. Fonvil instructed Weissmann to “remember” her.
Weissmann advised Rosene to pretend that she had a handicapped placard that had fallen inside of her vehicle, when in fact she never had a placard. Weissmann then filed a plea agreement stating that Rosene’s disability sticker “fell to bottom of car floor.”
Last year Weissmann pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. He admitted to the allegations as charged, during his plea allocution, and to knowing that his actions were an unauthorized exercise of his official functions.
Spring Valley Justice David Ascher sentenced him to two years probation.
But in his disciplinary case, he asked the appellate court to rule that his conviction did not constitute a serious crime. He asked the court to impose a public censure or a short-term suspension of no more than six months.
Weissmann argued that he is remorseful and has accepted full responsibility for his conduct. He has an unblemished disciplinary history, “but for a letter of caution.” He is an ethical and zealous advocate. He has a kind and caring nature. And it is unlikely that the misconduct will be repeated.
But appellate Justices Alan Scheinkman, Cheryl Chambers, Mark Dillon, Reinaldo Rivera and William Mastro concurred on Aug. 21 that the official misconduct misdemeanor is a serious crime.
“The court cannot overlook the fact that the crime committed here epitomizes the kind of corruption at the heart of the judicial system that undermines the public’s trust in the courts and their delivery of fair and evenhanded justice,” they ruled.
“In his role as special prosecutor, (he) fabricated evidence to secure a dismissal, knowing that his conduct was wrongful and improper.
The suspension will begin on Sept. 20.