Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Attorney: Dothan lawyer guilty of bad accounting, not theft

Deborah Seagle Jordan
Prosecutors in the trial of a former Dothan attorney charged with stealing money from a trust account meant for a client told jurors Monday the case is simple.

Deborah Seagle Jordan received a $25,000 settlement check from an insurance company meant for one of her clients. The client never received a penny. Jordan is responsible for the trust account and must, under state bar rules, account for every withdrawal. No money remains in the account.

Jordan’s attorney, Chris Williams, said his client is guilty of nothing more than poor accounting and bad office management.

Messy books? Yes. Bad hiring choices? Yes. Theft? No.

Further, Williams claims Jordan handled multiple cases for the client and her family and that the money in the trust account was due her for attorney fees and expenses.

“Dollar for dollar (Jordan) got the money she was due over time,” Williams said.

A jury of eight women and six men (accounting for two alternates) were seated Monday morning at the Houston County Courthouse. Jordan is charged with first degree theft of property, a Class B felony punishable by between two and 20 years in prison.

According to opening statements from assistant district attorney Banks Smith and initial testimony in the trial Monday, the state asserts the following happened:

» Houston County resident Patsy Todd retained Jordan in 2011 to represent her in an automobile accident case. The case eventually settled for $25,000.

» Todd died in February of 2012. Her daughter, Shannon Farr, is the legal heir to the Todd estate.

» On Feb. 8, 2012, Alfa Insurance writes a check to the Todd estate and to Jordan’s law office for $25,000. The funds are placed in a trust account the next day.

» One week later, all of the fund were gone from the account and none had been paid to Farr.

» After repeated attempts to learn about the state of the trust fund from Jordan, Farr retained Dothan attorney Laura Wells to handle the matter.

» Wells said she spent three months trying to obtain the Todd estate file from Jordan, with no success. In August of 2012, she contacted the Alabama Bar Association.

» The Bar Association initiated an investigation and determined that no funds were ever paid to Farr and little, if any, documentation was provided by Jordan to justify the withdrawals from the account.

“None of it went to Ms. Farr,” Smith said. “None of it can be accounted for. The money is gone.”

» The Dothan Police Department also initiated an investigation and later arrested Jordan in November of 2012 and charged her with first degree theft of property.

Williams, during opening statements, said the state’s account “missed the big picture of the story.”

According to Williams, Jordan inherited her father’s law practice when it was in a state of disarray, hired an office manager who performed poorly and was going through stressful personal issues during the time in question.

Williams also said Jordan handled at least two other cases for the family and that any money taken from the account could be considered payment for work done.

“There was no criminal intent,” Williams said. “She had no guilty mind.”

Testimony continues Monday afternoon and Tuesday.

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Attorney: Dothan lawyer guilty of bad accounting, not theft

1 comment:

Rhonda said...

Bad accounting? I didn't think lawyers were jokesters.