Attorney seeks leniency for Whittemore; disciplinary hearing ends

RENO — An attorney for convicted former Nevada political powerbroker Harvey Whittemore pleaded for leniency from a Nevada State Bar panel considering Whittemore’s disbarment over illegal campaign contributions.

Attorney John Echeverria said Wednesday that if Whittemore loses his law license but wins an appeal for a new trial, an innocent man will have been punished. He asked for “measured discipline” for his client.

Echeverria also accused Nevada State Bar President Alan Lefebvre of tainting the disciplinary process by circulating an email to panel members and others about the Whittemore case, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

David Clark, a State Bar attorney, said Thursday the panel members discussed the claim with Echeverria, but Whittemore’s lawyer didn’t seek a mistrial.

The two-day disciplinary hearing ended Wednesday with four hours of closing arguments.

Assistant Bar Counsel Patrick King told the five-member disciplinary panel that letting a convicted felon keep his law license would undermine the legal profession.

Whittemore, 61, a lawyer in Nevada since 1977, had his law license suspended last year following his conviction.

During the first day of hearings, on Jan. 10, the once-powerful lobbyist sobbed and told the panel that he didn’t think he was committing a crime when he funneled contributions to the 2007 campaign of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

A panel recommendation is expected within 30 days. It will then be up to the Nevada Supreme Court to decide whether and how Whittemore should be disciplined.

Whittemore was found guilty in May of two felony charges after being accused of using family and employees as so-called straw donors to skirt campaign contribution limits.

Whittemore also was convicted of causing Reid to file a false report with the Federal Election Commission.

Reid wasn’t accused of wrongdoing but did amend his 2007 FEC report.

Whittemore had been due to surrender later this month to begin serving a two-year federal prison term, but U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks ruled Dec. 31 that he could remain free until his appeal is decided.


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