A Tom Green County jury sentenced Sweetwater attorney John Stacy Young to 11 years in prison and $40,000 in fines Wednesday.
The jury deliberated for about three hours. Here's a breakdown of the sentences:
- On Count 1, forgery, state jail felony: 24 months in a Texas State Jail facility and a $10,000 fine.
- On Count 2, forgery, state jail felony: 24 months in a Texas State Jail facility and a $10,000 fine.
- On Count 3, theft, first-degree felony: 11 years in an institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a $10,000 fine.
- On Count 4, money laundering, second-degree felony: 11 years in an institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a $10,000 fine.
He will serve the sentences concurrently.
Young's family was in court for the sentencing. His daughter and son, both college age, broke into sobs and hugged their father.
Young, 57, was found guilty Monday, Nov. 6, on all charges related to conspiring with a San Angelo bail bondsman to forge a will and claim a local man's estimated $8 million estate.
Because he was found guilty of theft, Young almost certainly will be disbarred, according to information from the Houston Chronicle. It's not yet clear whether restitution will be required.
During closing arguments, Shane Attaway — with the state Attorney General's Office — told the jury that Young as a criminal defense attorney "knows the laws" and started "building his defense right from the start."
The defense urged the jury to consider "restorative justice" with a community supervision or probation option requiring Young or his family to pay back the estate.
"Make them (the Young family) pay," said Daniel Hurley, an attorney on Young's defense team. The easy option, he said, was to put him in jail and "let the taxpayers pay."
The prosecution team said Young had three years to pay restitution before now and "probation is not revoked for a failure to pay restitution," especially if the defendant has no assets or income to pay with.
The prosecution also pointed out that Young transferred ownership of his 5,000-square-foot home to his wife about two and a half weeks before the trial.
"Probation is a hammer only if it's made of plastic and comes with a McDonald's Happy Meal," said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan White, one of the prosecuting attorneys.
Young faced punishment of 180 days to two years in jail and two to 99 years in prison for theft, money laundering and two counts of forgery. The trial lasted about 3 1/2 weeks. Judge Brock Jones presided.
The Texas Rangers charged Young and former bail bondsman Ray Castro Zapata, 66, with stealing the estate of San Angelo resident John Edward Sullivan, 77, after he died June 4, 2014.
Zapata was bail bondsman for Sullivan when Sullivan was arrested in March 2014 on charges of soliciting minors online, and possession of child pornography. Court documents said Young became Sullivan's lawyer through a referral from Zapata.
According to previous testimony, Zapata said he found the alleged will — bequeathing Sullivan's entire fortune to Young — on the day of Sullivan's death. It was handwritten in black ink and about a paragraph long, inside a prayer book at Sullivan's residence, he said.
Zapata, who faced the same charges as Young, was found guilty in a May trial. A Tom Green County jury sentenced him to six months in state jail and 10 years' probation.
Judge Jones also ordered him to pay $1.8 million to Sullivan's estate. Zapata is appealing the conviction.
MAY 23: Zapata gets 10 years' probation
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Sweetwater attorney sentenced after forging millionaire's will