Joel Sanders, the former Dewey & LeBoeuf executive who was jailed on Thursday for failing to pay a fine stemming from his conviction, was released early Friday morning, according to his defense attorney, who said Sanders’ current law firm, Greenspoon Marder, paid the entire $1 million penalty.
“His firm backed him up with this, they were able to come up with the money. They value Joel, they think he’s a tremendous individual,” Christopher Oprison, Sanders’ attorney, said about Greenspoon. “That just shows their dedication and how they feel about Joel.”
New York City Department of Correction records confirm that Sanders was released Friday.
Oprison, a partner at DLA Piper, said his client is back “home,” referring to Sanders’ house on Long Island. He said his client was jailed for about a day, including at a downtown facility in Manhattan and then for about five hours at Rikers Island. Sanders was released at around 1 a.m. on Friday, Oprison said.
It was a “traumatic experience, this was awful,” Oprison said about Sanders’ brief jailing, noting that Sanders is a “good and honest person” who “takes care of his family.”
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Robert Stolz on Thursday ordered Sanders into custody after shooting down a bid from the former Dewey executive and his defense lawyer to have the $1 million fine reduced or revoked.
Sanders owed the penalty following his conviction on felony charges stemming from a scheme to defraud the defunct law firm’s investors and lenders before its 2012 collapse. His sentence included three years of conditional discharge, requiring him to pay the $1 million fine in three equal yearly installments and to complete 750 hours of community service.
In court papers filed late last month, Oprison argued that Sanders couldn’t make his first yearly installment on the fine, citing dire financial straits.
But at a hearing Thursday, Stolz noted that Sanders owns, outright, his house on Long Island worth at least $650,000 and has about $850,000 in equity on an oceanfront condominium in Miami Beach, Florida, that’s worth around $1 million. The judge also pointed out that Sanders and his wife have leases on “two high-end cars,” one an Audi and the other a Mercedes-Benz.
“I find the defendant willfully failed to pay his fine,” Stolz said Thursday. “I find the claimed inability to pay here not credible.”
Oprison said Friday he anticipated Stolz to take seriously the request to modify the fine. “I don’t think anybody expected the judge to take that extreme action,” Oprison said. “You can’t just liquidate a home” and Sanders “can’t get any loans from the bank.”
Asked whether Sanders will have to reimburse Greenspoon, where he is chief operating officer, Oprison said he’s doesn’t know of the internal arrangements between Greenspoon and Sanders.
Oprison noted that Sanders has tried to resign twice from Greenspoon because of the “bad press” his employment could bring the firm, but the firm refused each time. Sanders remains under conditional discharge for the next two years, continuing his community service, Oprison confirmed.
Oprison said he is “pretty optimistic” about Sanders’ appeal of his conviction, anticipating the $1 million will be reimbursed. “We have solid grounds for the appeal,” he said, noting it could be decided sometime next year.
“We’ve got a number of issues we’re raising,” Oprison said, citing issues such as alleged juror and government misconduct, statute of limitations questions and a recantation of witness testimony.
“We think the conviction was unjust, and the sentence and the fine were unjust and completely excessive,” Oprison said.
The Manhattan DA’s office declined to comment on Sanders’ release.
A spokeswoman for Greenspoon Marder didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.