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Shelton, Conn. attorney James J. LeDonne needs a better filing system. He’s in trouble with the Statewide Grievance Committee for misplacing a $64,000 check — and a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee. On top of that, he may lose his law license. The grievance committee recently approved LeDonne’s presentment in Superior Court for possible disbarment. LeDonne’s mother had leased the Grand Cherokee for him with the understanding that he would make the monthly payments and pay any excess mileage penalties. The day before the lease was set to expire, Aug. 19, 2000, LeDonne reported it stolen to the Shelton police department, according to the findings of a SGC review panel. The attorney told the police the vehicle was sitting in his driveway with the doors locked, and all sets of keys in his possession, when it mysteriously disappeared. He repeated that story to his insurance company five days later. The following month, one of the Jeep’s bumpers, with its license plate still affixed, turned up floating in an abandoned rock quarry in Seymour, Conn., two towns north on Route 8. By that November, state police had recovered the Jeep. The keys were still in the ignition and there were no signs of forced entry. When questioned by police, LeDonne, 34, had no explanation for how the Jeep ended up at the bottom of the Seymour quarry. At first, he claimed his ex-girlfriend had made a copy of the keys and taken the car — claims the woman vehemently denied. Police then obtained a warrant for LeDonne’s arrest and charged him with falsely reporting the Jeep stolen and disposing of it in the quarry. LeDonne was granted accelerated rehabilitation and made restitution to his insurance company. Currently, he is in outpatient treatment for a substance abuse problem, according to his attorney, William F. Gallagher of the Gallagher Law Firm in New Haven, Conn. Until the beginning of December, LeDonne had been receiving in-patient substance abuse treatment since starting an interim suspension of his law license Sept. 1. The Statewide Grievance Committee determined LeDonne ditched the Jeep to avoid paying $4,212 in mileage payments. In doing so, it found he violated rules 8.4(2) and (3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in criminal or fraudulent conduct. BOOKKEEPING ERRORS? The SGC also ordered his presentment in Superior Court for not appearing at a committee hearing and for failing to answer the grievance complaint without good cause. Gallagher said the committee made its findings “in a fit of pique.” Committee members, he said, were upset that LeDonne missed the last hearing in his case. But LeDonne, according to Gallagher, said he never received notice of the April hearing. Gallagher said his client’s AR plea in regards to the Jeep came because he was facing a potential of 20 years in prison if convicted of the Class D felony. “He presented evidence to the Statewide Grievance Committee that showed he had no motive,” Gallagher said. The SGC claimed otherwise. It found “that the evidence clearly establishes that [LeDonne] disposed of his leased Jeep in the abandoned Seymour quarry. [He] made several conflicting statements about the mileage on the vehicle and the number and whereabouts of keys to it.” In a separate a grievance matter, a SGC reviewing committee found clear and convincing evidence that LeDonne violated ethics rules requiring attorneys to safeguard their clients’ funds. Hudson United Bank reported that, in February 2003, his client trust account was overdrawn by nearly $37,000, In his response to the grievance committee’s inquiry, he said the overdraft was caused by a misplaced $64,000 check, which was erroneously recorded as having been deposited. LeDonne, however, failed to provide any documentation supporting his explanation. “All I can tell you about the checks is that nobody has been defrauded of money,” Gallagher said. “All checks have been covered.” He said his client experienced problems due to bookkeeping errors and a wire transfer that was withdrawn. LeDonne is scheduled to appear before Milford, Conn. Superior Court Judge Thomas Upson on Jan. 21.

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