Prison bars/Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Disbarred personal injury attorney Jason Dalley is serving a 21-month federal prison sentence for fraud. But those who know him say the actions that ended his career were one misstep in an otherwise “exemplary life.”

Several attorneys and longtime friends spoke out on his behalf, and wrote letters in proceedings before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas.

“As people, one of the greatest things we can do is to positively change a person’s life,” wrote Kenneth Dion, a West Palm Beach attorney who knew Dalley when they worked together as assistant public defenders. “There are many children, including my son, who are still playing baseball for many reasons. I am confident that one of the main reasons is due to their experience with Mr. Dalley. He has made these players grow as players and people. He has changed their lives for the better.”

Dalley faced one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and health care fraud. He pleaded guilty, and Dimitrouleas sentenced him on April 16.

He was one of six South Florida personal injury attorneys arrested in 2017 in a multiagency investigation that included the FBI. Their arrests put a spotlight on insurance fraud and the competitive personal injury sector.

But Dalley’s friends, colleagues and defense counsel presented Dimitrouleas accounts of a family man with deep ties and far-reaching community service. They said Dalley was a respected Little League coach and mentor to dozens of teams for 15 seasons.

“Mr. Dalley acknowledged to the court he got caught up in this criminal conspiracy and  lost his way,” said defense counsel Guy P. Fronstin. “In no way is this one mishap in his life indicative of the man he is. … But for this one extreme lapse in judgment, Mr. Dalley has lived an exemplary life of honor, integrity and family values.”

Sentencing guidelines could have sent the former attorney to prison for 46 to 57 months. But based on his cooperation in the investigation, prosecutors recommended 27. Defense lawyers wanted an 18-month sentence.

Dimitrouleas weighed the guilty plea and Dalley’s profession when counting aggravating factors, but also considered the character references before handing down a 21-month sentence.

Dalley could be out of prison in 17 months with good behavior. He surrendered his law practice instead of participating in Florida Bar disciplinary proceedings.

“He is now going to do his time, and hopes to be home with his family as soon as possible to go on with this half,” defense counsel Marc Nurik said. “I can’t say this about every client, but he’s a really good individual. He’s a really good guy who made a mistake, and he’s going to pay dearly for it.”