The D.C. Bar Counsel is recommending that former federal prosecutor G. Paul Howes be suspended for at least two years from practicing law in the District for his misconduct in a witness payment scandal.
Howes also should "furnish proof of rehabilitation as a condition of reinstatement," stated the 116-page brief filed on June 25. A Board on Professional Responsibility hearing committee hasn't yet issued its recommended sanctions after hearing testimony in May from Howes and other witnesses. Howes -- an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District in the 1990s -- testified that poor training, a heavy caseload and a desire to help people in need led him to approve improper witness payment vouchers.
Howes had admitted six of the eight ethics charges before the May hearing, including making false statements in court and engaging in conduct involving "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." But he is challenging charges that he engaged in criminal conduct and offered unlawful inducements to witnesses.
Both Bar Counsel and a Justice Department probe found Howes disbursed more than $140,000 in witness vouchers to 132 people during the Newton Street gang trial and another murder trial, including improper payments to incarcerated witnesses, friends and family of witnesses, and retired detectives. Howes hasn't yet filed a response to the Bar Counsel brief, and neither he nor his attorney Plato Cacheris could be reached for comment last week.
Howes, who is now a partner in the San Diego office of Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, still could face disbarment because the D.C. Court of Appeals determines any sanctions.
D.C. Bar Counsel Wallace "Gene" Shipp Jr. says his office does "very very few" docketed investigations against local prosecutors or former prosecutors. "We just go where the misconduct is. Either there is no misconduct, or it's unreported to us," Shipp said last week.
A nationwide study by the Center for Public Integrity found prosecutors almost never get disciplined. Since 1970, the study found more than 2,000 cases of prosecutorial misconduct, but only 44 prosecutors faced disciplinary hearings.