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A Delaware County, Pa., lawyer who was convicted of witness tampering charges in June 2003 was sentenced by a federal judge Monday to 21 months in prison and fined $10,000. Prosecutors said attorney Daniel Seal and his client, Nicholas Paz, had concocted a plan to tell false tales of drug deals with a reputed Mafia member in a scheme to win a lighter sentence for Paz on a bank robbery charge. But Seal testified that Paz’s case was his first federal criminal case and that he had no idea the story was false until he presented it to Paz’s co-defendant, Harvey Clanton. In Monday’s sentencing hearing, Senior U.S. District Judge Clarence C. Newcomer told Seal, “I’m sure you’re not a bad person. � [But] you made a very serious mistake, and one that a lawyer cannot afford to make.” At trial, prosecutors said that prison officials had separated Paz from Clanton so that they could not communicate but that Seal carried messages to Clanton in an effort to persuade him to join Paz in telling the false accounts to the government. Tape-recorded conversations, prosecutors said, showed that Seal was aware that the stories he heard from his own client were false and that Seal was trying to persuade the second man to go along with the lies. In a sentencing memo, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Schwartz and Denise Wolf argued that Seal must serve time in prison because “our system of justice breaks down when a lawyer asks a witness to lie.” But defense attorney Peter Scuderi — who replaced attorney Frank Marcone after the verdict — argued that Seal was deserving of leniency because the evidence shows that he tried to verify his client’s story. Scuderi argued that since the jury was instructed that it could convict Seal on a theory of “willful blindness,” it is possible that the jury believed Seal’s testimony but convicted him because he “should have known the story was false.” In his sentencing memo, Scuderi suggested that the scheme to deceive the government was concocted by Paz alone and that it was “doomed to failure from the start.” For the scheme to succeed, Scuderi said, the federal agents and prosecutors would have had to believe the story and also agree to release Paz and Clanton — two reputed members of the Junior Black Mafia — so that they could wear a wire and capture the Mafia figure on tape. If the original story were indeed false, Scuderi said, the scheme would have fallen apart because the Mafia figure would not have spoken with them.

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