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LOS ANGELES � Securities class action plaintiffs’ lawyer William S. Lerach has been sentenced to 24 months in prison, the maximum allowable under a plea agreement he reached last year with federal prosecutors in the kickback case against Milberg Weiss. “Mr. Lerach’s criminal conduct is by far one of the most serious crimes to come before the court,” said U.S. District Judge John Walter of the Central District of California on Monday. But for Lerach, he noted, losing his ability to practice law “will probably hurt more than his loss of liberty.” Lerach, a former partner at Milberg Weiss, agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy as part of an investigation alleging that Milberg Weiss and several of its partners, including Lerach, generated more than $250 million in attorney fees by paying secret and illegal payments to name plaintiffs in more than 150 class action and shareholder lawsuits. As part of the plea deal, Lerach had agreed to serve one to two years in prison. In recent weeks, federal prosecutors had argued against a pre-sentencing report’s recommendation that Lerach serve 15 months in prison. Instead, they sought a maximum of 24 months. Lerach’s remorse On Monday, Lerach declined to comment outside the hearing. But earlier in court, he expressed remorse. “I pleaded guilty in this case because I was guilty. I knew what I was doing, when I did it, was wrong,” he told Walter. “I did not have the strength of character and the strength of will to resist what was going on at our firm.” He said his conduct was “completely unacceptable,” especially for a lawyer. “I’m very, very sorry to my family, who I’ve embarrassed, to the partners at my firm, who I let down, and to the legal system that I have abused,” he said. Lerach is scheduled to surrender on April 21. As part of his sentence, Lerach, who has already forfeited $7.75 million to the government, also will pay a $250,000 fine and serve two years of supervised release, during which he must perform 1,000 hours of community service. Lerach’s lawyer, John Keker, a partner at Keker & Van Nest in San Francisco, requested that Lerach serve his prison term at a low-security facility for male inmates in Lompoc, Calif. Keker asked that Lerach serve a one-year term consisting of six months in prison and six months of home confinement with the condition that he be allowed to teach at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Mary Crossley, dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s law school, Lerach’s alma mater, proposed in a letter attached to court papers that Lerach teach ethics, civil procedure, corporations, securities and remedies, and act as an advisor to the school’s moot court program, as early as January 2009. “Despite his serious transgressions � indeed, at least in part because of them � I believe he could productively spend his time and talents teaching our students about the need always to practice ethically and within the strictures of the law, the pitfalls attorneys face when they breach high ethical standards, and the steps they might take to avoid his fate,” she said in the letter. She added that Lerach could teach on campus for 10-day blocks of time each month, for a total of four semesters, with no compensation or expense reimbursement, and that he could teach while serving potential home confinement. Length of conspiracy During the hearing, Keker painted a picture portraying Lerach as being shocked to find out that the conspiracy had continued long after he was no longer involved � although he did admit that he paid kickbacks in certain cases. Walter questioned that argument. “I don’t see any evidence in this record that anybody, specifically Mr. Lerach, withdrew from the conspiracy,” Walter said, noting that Lerach obtained attorney fees from cases involving kickbacks even if, as he claims, he stopped making them himself. Walter also had harsh words for prosecutors. He said he “seriously considered” rejecting the plea agreement altogether, noting that the recommended sentencing range, while applicable under the plea deal, does not reflect the serious facts of the case. But he opted against rejecting a plea agreement “negotiated by three expert prosecutors and Mr. Keker, a skillful attorney.”

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