Suspended lawyer avoids prison in gambling case

After gambling away more than $300,000 of his clients' money and pleading guilty to two counts of theft, suspended lawyer Doug Crawford on Wednesday was given a chance to avoid prison and wipe his record clean by a retiring District Court judge.

Despite objections by a prosecutor, Judge Donald Mosley allowed Crawford to take part in a three-year prison diversion program to treat gambling addicts.

If Crawford successfully completes the requirements of the program, which includes paying back before 2015 the $304,831 he stole from three clients, the felony case will be dismissed and his record sealed.

If not, Crawford, 56, could face probation or one to 20 years in prison.

Crawford in October pleaded guilty to two felony counts of theft for stealing $304,831 from clients between November 2005 and May 2007.

The thefts first surfaced in disciplinary proceedings before the State Bar of Nevada, which temporarily suspended Crawford from practicing law in May 2007 after he admitted 65 violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Crawford told the State Bar during his disciplinary proceedings that he stole the money to support gambling, alcohol and drug addictions.

The bar later recommended disbarring Crawford, but the Nevada Supreme Court instead suspended him in February 2009 for five years, saying his personal problems factored into its decision.

Crawford, who was first admitted to the bar in 1985, can apply for reinstatement to practice law in May.

Prosecutor Robert Daskas argued against the diversionary program, saying Crawford has had four years to pay back the money.

Daskas said that four years ago, Crawford promised he would work tirelessly to pay back the money he took.

So far, Daskas said, Crawford has made two payments totaling $100.

The prosecutor added that Crawford shouldn't be eligible for the gambling diversion program because he was addicted to other vices, including using methamphetamine.

Mosley, who said he would be retiring within the year, disagreed and found Crawford eligible for the program.

Daskas also told Mosley that Crawford helped pass the law allowing for a gambling addiction diversion program, in which he now is being allowed to participate.

In 2009, Crawford testified about his addiction to gambling before the Legislature before the bill was passed.

At the time, Crawford said, he had no idea he would be criminally charged. Authorities charged him in December 2010.

The goal of the diversionary program, similar to drug court, is to provide guidance and treatment to prevent defendants from re-offending, while saving tax dollars by keeping them out of prison.

Before he was sentenced, Crawford apologized to the court for what he had done and for bringing "disgrace upon the legal profession."

"I did what no lawyer should do," he said.

Crawford said he hasn't had the money to pay back the restitution until now. He said he has had a hard time maintaining employment. After pleading guilty, he resigned as a law clerk for Family Court Judge Jennifer Elliott.

Crawford said he lives with his parents and has spent most of his time trying to keep his "horrible disease in remission."

He told Mosley, "I will do everything in my power to make amends for the harm that I've caused."

Crawford said he has $74,000 he is ready to pay in restitution. The money came from a loan from a friend, Crawford's defense attorney Tom Pitaro said later.

Afterward, Crawford declined to comment under the advice of his attorneys.

The courtroom was filled with more than two dozen people, most of whom were there to support Crawford.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review or 702-380-1039.