An attorney who specializes in obtaining and maintaining gun licenses issued by the New York City Police Department for his clients and who was convicted last year and sentenced to prison for bribing a police sergeant in the department’s licensing division has been disbarred.
John Skylar Chambers, who has been in practice since 1985 was convicted in April 2018 of bribery, honest services fraud and related conspiracy counts and was later sentenced to a year in prison.
A panel from the Appellate Division, First Department ruled on Tuesday that Chambers was automatically disbarred upon his conviction, which came after a weeklong jury trial, finding that the federal bribery statute has an analog in New York’s third-degree bribery statute, a class D felony.
Justices David Friedman, John Sweeny Jr., Barbara Kapnick, Marcy Kahn and Anil Singh joined in the decision. Sherine Cummings appeared for the Grievance Committee.
While he was in business, Chambers billed himself as a leading firearms licensing attorney in the city who could get licenses in his clients’ hands quickly. In an interview, Chambers said he maintained the practice for about 30 years.
According to court papers, from 2010 to 2015, Chambers regaled New York City Police Sgt. David Villanueva, who was a supervisor at the department’s gun licensing division, with gifts and cash and, in turn, the sergeant would wrap up investigations into Chambers’ clients more quickly and with more favorable outcomes to the clients.
On numerous occasions, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Villanueva allowed some of Chambers’ clients to keep their licenses even when they faced revocation for being involved in domestic incidents or accidentally discharging their weapons.
Chambers’ alleged gifts to Villanueva included tickets to sporting events and entertainment for Villanueva and his family, meals, sports memorabilia, a wristwatch that retailed for more that $8,500 and more than $2,000 in cash.
Chambers said that he and Villanueva were friends and denied ever giving a bribe to the police sergeant.
He said in an interview Tuesday that the two often went out to dinner together and that it was never anywhere too ritzy—places such as Junior’s, not the 21 Club, he said—and Chambers typically offered to pay. Chambers said that he gave Villanueva the watch because Villanueva has been angry at Chambers for talking to his commanding officer on a matter.
“Justice is not being served and I’m certainly not happy,” Chambers said. “I’ve been a good lawyer for 32 years without a single blemish against me.”
Villanueva pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme, testified against Chambers at trial and is now awaiting sentencing.
According to media reports, Villanueva said on the stand that it was because of Chambers’ generosity that he signed off on licenses for maraschino cherry manufacturer Arthur Mondella, who shot himself dead in 2015 during a raid at his plant in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn; and Vladimir Gotlibovsky, whose gun went off accidentally at a lavish wedding at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, injuring a woman.
Chambers, who appeared pro se in the disciplinary matter is appealing his conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Jared Foley of Gallet Dreyer & Berkey is representing Chambers in his appeal.
Roger Stavis of Mintz and Gold, who represented Chambers in his criminal case at trial, said that his client had to wrap up his practice following his conviction.
Chambers said that, if successful on appeal, he will seek reinstatement to the bar.