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Jurors just didn’t go for the old trial lawyer charm. A federal jury on Thursday unanimously convicted former San Francisco plaintiff attorney Nikolai Tehin on 15 counts of fraud and money laundering. The guilty verdicts came after two days of deliberations following a trial in front of Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. Prosecutors said Tehin stole millions in client funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle. About a dozen former clients testified against Tehin during the trial, which began last month. As the court clerk read the verdict, Tehin sat with his hands folded and looked at the clerk, while his lawyer, Harold Rosenthal of San Francisco’s Rosenthal & Gibbons, wrote notes on a yellow pad. Although jurors agreed with everything charged by the government — six counts of fraud, nine of money laundering — their work still isn’t finished. Because of Blakely v. Washington, 124 S.Ct. 2531, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court last session, Judge Walker is overseeing a second set of deliberations during which the jury will determine factors to be used in sentencing. Blakely, in combination with an opinion by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, said facts used in sentencing had to be found by a jury, not a judge. So after the verdict was read, Walker asked the jury to take a break, while he, Rosenthal and lead prosecutor Miles Ehrlichtried to come up with jury instructions for the next step. Among other factors, the jury will determine the amount of money stolen by Tehin, the number of victims and whether the crimes constituted an abuse of trust and fraud through sophisticated means. Tehin faces up to two decades in prison, plus fines. As the judge and lawyers haggled over the best way to explain to a jury what makes a crime sophisticated, Rosenthal commented at one point, “Being in new territory, some of these things don’t become evident” right away. Tehin’s trial is the first time such a bifurcation had to be held in the Northern District. And it could be the last. The Supreme Court has already heard arguments in two cases that could clarify Blakely‘s relationship to the federal sentencing guidelines. Tehin appeared stoic after the verdict, sitting back and listening to the lawyers negotiate jury instructions. Throughout the trial, he had maintained a poker face, only losing his composure when he took the stand in his own defense. During that testimony, he cried as he talked about coming to the United States as a Russian immigrant and about how law school was his escape from a life of manual labor in California’s Central Valley. After successful stints at plaintiff firms, Tehin went out on his own, eventually forming Tehin & Partners, where he worked with his wife Pamela Stevens. But Tehin’s life unraveled. Mishandling of plaintiffs’ settlement money led to an investigation by the State Bar. The firm dissolved, and Tehin and his wife resigned under threat of disbarment. Although government prosecutors put on a case that was heavy on the math –Ehrlich led the court through an exhaustive series of spreadsheets — jurors apparently had no trouble keeping up. Prosecutors alleged Tehin stole and misused at least $2 million, shifting around funds in client trust accounts to cover personal and work expenses. “He solved the problem with his clients’ money,” Ehrlich told jurors during closing arguments Monday. “He solved the problem with fraud.”

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