Federal sentencing guidelines called for Joseph Sturgis to spend a minimum of 12 months in prison. But in some cases, said U.S. district court judge Robert Kelly, “human intervention” is needed. The judge then sentenced Sturgis, the former managing partner of Philadelphia’s Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul, to three years’ probation for tax fraud.

The sentencing came after a poignant two-hour hearing on December 2 in which Sturgis’s family pleaded for leniency, saying that a drinking problem had clouded Sturgis’s judgment. In June, Sturgis, 65, admitted stealing about $50,000 from Saul, Ewing, which he headed from 1984 until 1993, and failing to report the income on his tax returns. After he left Saul, Ewing in 1993 for Philadelphia’s Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley, his former partners discovered that Sturgis had doctored expense reports and issued thousands of dollars of checks to himself between 1989 and 1992. The firm notified the disciplinary board of Pennsylvania’s supreme court, which referred the matter to the local U.S. attorney’s office. Sturgis was subsequently disbarred.

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