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A federal judge has denied a request by Melvyn Weiss to cut short his three-year supervised release following his conviction for paying kickbacks to lead plaintiffs in shareholder cases. Weiss, who was released last year after being sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, cited recent work he has been doing with Anthony Thompson, professor of clinical law at New York University School of Law. Specifically, Weiss, who first contacted Thompson while in prison, assisted in designing a forum held on Oct. 19 called “Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions: The Impact on Family and Community,” which was attended by more than 100 students and faculty. He also cited numerous charitable organizations he supports. In a Nov. 4 court document, he noted that, because he is on supervised release, he often is precluded from visiting the organizations he supports. “He is deeply remorseful and thoroughly humbled by his prison experience, and has used his time in custody and afterwards to reflect upon and learn from his conduct and its consequences, both for himself and others,” wrote Weiss’s attorney, Alfredo Jarrin, a partner at Brown, White & Newhouse in Los Angeles, in an Oct. 3 motion. Federal prosecutors, in their Nov. 1 response, scoffed at the gesture. “Defendant’s public critique of the negative effects of incarceration, the obstacles that offenders face on reentry, and the lack of effective resources to address their rehabilitation may hold interest for some, but it hardly amounts to exceptional conduct that would warrant reduction of defendant’s own sentence by shortening his time of supervised release,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Robinson. “That defendant is open about his own criminal conviction does not make his efforts exceptional, since any public speaking engagement for defendant – and it is abundantly clear that Melvyn Weiss enjoys public speaking – will inevitably require him to acknowledge his criminal past to some degree.” During a Nov. 7 hearing, U.S. District Judge John Walter in Los Angeles rejected Weiss’s request. Weiss, founding partner of the firm now called Milberg LLP, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in 2008. He paid a $250,000 fine and forfeited $9.75 million. He was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, which he served at a facility in Morgantown, W.Va., followed by time in a halfway house and home confinement. He then began serving three years’ supervised release that is scheduled to end on Feb. 5, 2013. He has been supervised by a probation officer in Florida from November through May, and a probation officer in New York from May through November. Thompson is the author of Releasing Prisoner, Redeeming Communities: Reentry, Race and Politics, which addresses obstacles facing convicts after they are released from prison. In a Sept. 16 letter to Walter, Thompson urged that he end supervised release for Weiss. “I should make clear to you, that I do not take the responsibility of writing this letter lightly,” he wrote. “I believe that individuals should pay their debt to society.” According to his motion, Weiss also has sought guidance from the Aleph Institute, a nonprofit organization that assists Jewish prisoners and military members in finding closer connection to their religious beliefs. He hosted a panel discussion with the founder of Aleph Institute at his home, where he talked about his own incarceration and crimes. “I remember him speaking to me about his grand kids and telling me, ‘I have started to really emerse myself in religious study and get myself on the right path, as I want my grandkids to be proud of their grandfather,’ ” wrote Rabbi Aaron Lipskar, executive director of the Aleph Institute. Weiss participated in a panel discussion at the national convention of the American Constitution Society of Law and Policy in Washington that focused on the collateral consequences of criminal convictions. He cited his involvement in the Israel Policy Forum, an organization that promotes diplomatic efforts toward peace in the Middle East, which restored Weiss as a member of its executive committee following his prison time. Last year, Weiss was part of a delegation to Israel and the West Bank that met with government leaders, according to the motion. Weiss has contributed to a nonprofit school in Haiti by financing booths at the New York Art Expo and the Karen Lyn Art Gallery in Boca Raton, Fla., that sell artwork by Haitians. He has paid for computers for the school. The school’s co-founder, Claude Perpignand, in a letter to Walter, said the board agreed to name one of the classrooms the Melvyn Weiss Computer Learning Center. Weiss has served as a mediator and arbitrator in cases for about 200 lawyers nationwide, the motion said. In the government’s response, Robinson honed in on Weiss’s new business venture, MIW Mediating & Consulting LLC. “Defendant does not say, but presumably he is not providing his services for free. He wants back in the game,” he wrote. “In any event, defendant fails to explain how his new business endeavor could possibly warrant early termination of his supervised release. To the contrary, given defendant’s conviction arising from a conspiracy that obstructed justice in federal and state courts for decades, his participation in matters involving actual or potential legal disputes and proceedings should be subject to continued supervision by the Probation Offices.” Robinson reminded Walter that many of Weiss’s good deeds were taken into account for his prison sentence, which was lowered from 33 months, and that general deterrence is especially important in this case, in which Weiss was the most senior partner convicted. Cutting short his supervised release wouldn’t serve that purpose, Robinson wrote. “Instead, it would suggest to the public that a wealthy defendant who spends a lot of money and a relatively limited amount of time and effort on the same types of worthy causes he supported prior to incarceration can substantially reduce the supervision portion of his sentence,” he wrote. “Perhaps the absence of supervision would make engaging in these activities more convenient for defendant, but inconvenience is not sufficient grounds for its termination.” Contact Amanda Bronstad at [email protected].

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