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An attorney who stole more than $7 million from his clients has been denied parole in part because the parole board took into consideration his record in prison, which was a positive one. The case of disbarred lawyer Steven J. Romer illustrates the broad discretion exercised by a parole board appointed by New York Gov. George E. Pataki, who has long sought to eliminate parole. If the panel had considered only the seriousness of Romer’s crimes, he may well have prevailed in overturning his fourth parole denial, the Appellate Division, 3rd Department, suggested. But the board’s consideration of other factors supports its decision to deny Romer parole, even though those factors are generally favorable. Romer v. Dennison, 98467, arose from an appeal of a ruling last June in which Justice Bernard J. Malone Jr., now of the Appellate Division, 1st Department, annulled the Board of Parole decision denying Romer release. Malone found that the board considered only the seriousness of Romer’s crime and ordered the panel to reconsider. But the 3rd Department reversed. It found that the board had noted and presumably considered factors other than the seriousness of the crime and thus was on solid legal ground in denying Romer’s release. The appeals court reiterated that, absent a showing of abject irrationality, the board may do as it wishes so long as it addresses the statutory criteria. It may also give any weight it desires to the various factors that must be taken into consideration. Here, it said, the parole board took into account the statutory criteria. The 3rd Department said the parole board presumably considered the fact that Romer has served as a paralegal assistant in the Sing Sing law library, as an aide to the chaplain, that he taught other inmates legal research techniques and Hebrew and that he has not received a single disciplinary ticket in the 13 years since he began serving a 7 1/2 to 22 1/2 year sentence for his deceit. Additionally, the board observed that Romer has no prior criminal record, expresses an intent to pay restitution to his victims and has never had a drug or alcohol problem, the court said. But the board also pointed out that Romer maintains his innocence and appears to disregard the impact that crimes he says he did not commit had on his clients. “As we previously have held, the Board need not recite each of the factors upon which it relied in making its determination, and its decision (actual or perceived) to place particular emphasis on the specific factor is not fatal where, as here, it is apparent that the Board’s decision was made in compliance with the statutory requirements,” Justice D. Bruce Crew III wrote for the unanimous panel. He was joined by Justices Thomas E. Mercure, Karen K. Peters, Anthony J. Carpinello and Anthony T. Kane. The court distinguished Romer v. Dennison from Wallman v. Travis, 18 AD3d 304 (2005), where the 1st Department found nothing in the record to indicate that the parole board had considered anything other than the instant offense in denying parole to a prisoner. Wallman also involved an attorney, Jay Wallman of Manhattan, who stole $4.7 million from his clients in the mid-1990s. In that case, the 1st Department said: “A Parole Board’s exclusive reliance on the severity of the offense to deny parole not only contravenes the discretionary scheme mandated by statute, but also effectively constitutes an unauthorized resentencing of the defendant.” After it ordered a rehearing, the parole board approved Wallman’s release on July 6. $7 MILLION STOLEN Romer, who will turn 70 later this month, was indicted in Manhattan and accused of stealing more than $7 million, including an orphan’s entire inheritance. He was missing for 55 days before showing up at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in 1991, claiming that he had been abducted and that his captors had raided his trust accounts. The jury was out for three days before finding Romer guilty of grand larceny, possession of stolen property and possession of a forged instrument. In the past, elected officials ranging from then-U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Assemblyman James Tedisco, a tough-on-crime Schenectady Republican who was just elected Assembly minority leader, have advocated for Romer’s release, according to published reports. Romer is scheduled for a fifth parole hearing in June, but he could be conditionally released in February when, because of the length of time he will have served, he could be freed with good time credits and without another appearance before the Board of Parole. Romer appeared pro se. The parole board was represented by Assistant Attorney General Frank Brady.

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