David Dale, a disbarred Buffalo attorney and former Erie County legislator, was sentenced Wednesday to a year in county jail after a judge refused to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea to defrauding clients and practicing law after being disbarred.
State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns listened to Dale talk about his past community service and the special medical needs of his young daughter as reasons against a jail sentence.
But Burns called Dale’s actions an affront not just to those whose money he took, but to the legal profession.
When Dale pleaded guilty in June, he admitted stealing money from clients by pretending he was still permitted to provide legal services, several years after his 2005 disbarment.
A new attorney was recently assigned to Dale, replacing Thomas J. Eoannou.
Dale sought to withdraw his plea, but Burns refused.
“The defendant essentially contends that his plea was not knowing and voluntary because it was based upon the ineffective assistance of counsel and the ‘coercion’ and ‘bullying’ of the court and [the prosecution],” Burns said during the sentencing hearing. “Each of these allegations is unsupported by the record before this court. The transcripts of the prior proceedings, each conducted in open court, refute the defendant’s claims of ‘coercion’ and ‘bullying.’?”
In fact, Burns said his review of the transcripts of hearings before and after the plea “support the court’s initial determination that the defense was engaged in dilatory tactics intended to delay resolution of the … charges.”
Dale failed to show that ineffective assistance of counsel forced him to plead guilty, Burns said, adding that Dale’s answers during his plea proceeding “directly contradict” his later assertions about his plea.
“The defendant’s replies indicated he understood the proceedings and the nature of what he was pleading to,” Burns said.
“That’s an appropriate sentence for Mr. Dale, given the nature of his crimes,” said Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.
A grand jury indicted Dale on charges of collecting more than $10,000 in illegal fees from seven unsuspecting clients for estate and real estate work between August 2008 and January 2011.
Dale could have been sentenced to up to four years in state prison on his convictions for first-degree felony scheme to defraud and practicing law after being disbarred.
Dale said his daughter’s medical condition – she’s prone to seizures – requires a parent to be with her. His wife, the family’s breadwinner, works as a nurse at night, while Dale has stayed home during the day to care for the children, he said. “It’s very important that I’m home,” Dale said.
In 2005, an appellate court disbarred Dale for mishandling an estate case and costing clients more than $110,000 in penalties for late estate tax payments.