Edward De Sear, a former partner at Allen & Overy and Bingham McCutchen, was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to federal child pornography and sex trafficking charges.
In admitting to the crimes of which he is accused, the 67-year-old resident of Saddle River, N.J., acknowledged sexually molesting a 6-year-old boy in a Brussels hotel room in June 2011 after arranging for the youth to travel there from Paris, according to a press release and superseding information disclosed Thursday afternoon by the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark.
De Sear pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking with a child and four counts of distributing child pornography before U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, who handed down the 210-month negotiated sentence and ordered De Sear to pay $1.2 million in restitution to the victims of his various crimes.
The Am Law Daily reported in July 2011 that federal prosecutors in Newark had charged De Sear with distributing child pornography. At the time, De Sear was a partner in the New York office of Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy, which immediately severed its relationship with him.
De Sear had arrived at Allen & Overy a year earlier from Bingham McCutchen, a firm whose partnership he joined in 2009 when it absorbed his previous firm McKee Nelson. De Sear’s high-profile move to McKee Nelson in 2003 from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, whose structured finance practice he once chaired, was covered by sibling publication Legal Times.
As it turned out, legal bona fides were masking a dark side. A year after Allen & Overy cut its ties to him, federal law enforcement authorities arrested De Sear on additional charges, according to our previous reports. In connection with that arrest, prosecutors unsealed a graphic 21-page indictment that detailed De Sear’s use of a peer-to-peer file-sharing program to download hundreds of illicit images and videos depicting the sexual exploitation of young children.
The indictment claimed that De Sear used the wireless network of the firm where he was working in 2010 to access the peer-to-peer network. In a statement to The Am Law Daily, a Bingham spokeswoman said that the firm “cooperated fully with authorities in their investigation while [De Sear] was briefly with the firm and after his departure in July 2010.”
On Thursday, De Sear thanked prosecutors and the FBI for tracking him down.
“I am crushed with remorse and shame,” the disgraced lawyer told Martini, according to a report on Thursday’s proceeding by The Record of Bergen County. “The FBI may have saved me from hell. And I hope to do some good with my life.”
The Record reports that De Sear’s lawyers turned over checks for the $1.2 million in restitution during Thursday’s court appearance. The sentencing terms call for him to pay $1.1 million to the boy he abused and another $100,000 to the victims of his illegal downloading.
Michael Critchley Jr. and John Vazquez of Roseland, N.J.–based Critchley, Kinum & Vazquez are representing De Sear. Neither responded to requests for comment on their client’s sentencing. In addition to the prison term and restitution, Martini also ordered De Sear to pay a $25,000 fine to cover court costs and register as a sex offender, according to information provided by federal prosecutors.
An Allen & Overy spokesman declined to comment, noting that the firm ended its affiliation with De Sear after prosecutors unveiled their initial charges against him. The New York State Bar Association currently lists De Sear’s registration status as “delinquent.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shirley Emehelu—a former Debevoise & Plimpton associate—and Leslie Schwartz in Newark led the prosecution of De Sear. Paul Fishman, a former head of the white-collar and complex civil litigation practice at New York’s Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman, has served as U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey since October 2009.
The Record reports that Martini only accepted De Sear’s plea deal and stipulated sentence with prosecutors from Fishman’s office because the defendant will be in his early eighties when released and therefore pose a “minimal, if any, risk to the community.” (The New York Times reported last year on the bad blood between Fishman and Martini.)
As noted two years ago by Above the Law, De Sear and his wife, Patricia, a New Jersey psychologist, were once honored by the Garden State for their efforts in renovating the historic Ackerman-Dater House in Saddle River.
The Record notes that De Sear’s guilty plea is part of a wider Justice Department investigation into child pornography that also resulted in charges against the parents of the child assaulted by De Sear in Brussels. The same-sex couple were given 30- and 40-year prison terms by a federal court in Indianapolis earlier this month and in June, according to news reports, which note they purchased their adopted Russian child for $8,000 in 2005.