By Jeff Noble/Staff Writer
A former Williamsburg attorney involved in a kickback scheme with former Whitley County sheriff Lawrence Hodge was permanently disbarred Thursday by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
According to the Associated Press, Ronnie Wayne Reynolds. 55, had his license revoked by the court due to his guilty plea of conspiracy to commit extortion and his 27-month prison sentence.
The court’s Board of Governors also ordered Reynolds to pay $434.59 for the costs of the disbarment proceeding.
In a copy of the court document obtained from the Kentucky Supreme Court, the court called Reynolds’ actions “gross misconduct,” and that “permanent disbarment is the only appropriate sanction.”
“In support of permanent disbarment, the KBA (Kentucky Bar Association) notes that the American Bar Association has stated in regard to the criminal activity present here, ‘disbarment is generally appropriate when a lawyer engages in serious criminal conduct a necessary element of which includes intentional interference with the administration of justice.’ … Here, Reynolds circumvented the system that he is sworn to uphold and betrayed the trust of the public in the fair administration of justice. This conduct is intolerable. The public can have no confidence in the legal system if the members sworn to uphold it manipulate outcomes in the name of greed and personal gain. … This Court has consistently taken criminal financial misconduct very seriously,” the document said.
Reynolds pleaded guilty in March 2011 in U. S. District Court in Lexington as part of a plea agreement to conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. That included extortion, money laundering and distribution of drugs.
He admitted to paying $57,000 to Hodge to have charges against his clients reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, with Hodge’s approval. In exchange for the payment, Hodge referred to Reynolds people who had been arrested on criminal charges.
Court documents indicated Reynolds earned around $199,500 from the scheme, while Hodge was paid at least $113,000 in cash, forfeitures or donations to his department, in exchange or the favorable treatment.
Reynolds admitted in federal court that he and Hodge extorted money from his clients on at least three occasions, from June 2004 to July 2007. The three clients referenced in court documents were charged by Reynolds $160,000, $72,000 and $25,000 respectively, for a total of $257,000.
Almost a week after his conviction, Reynolds was suspended by the Kentucky Bar Association for disciplinary reasons. A check of the KBA’s website Thursday listed his status as a former member, and remains suspended.
Reynolds was sentenced in July of that same year to two years and three months in federal prison. At the sentencing, he asked to be placed in the McCreary County Federal Prison. Both his guilty plea and sentencing were before Federal Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove.
According to the state Supreme Court document, Reynolds’ 27-month prison sentence would be followed by two years’ supervised release. They added Reynolds is currently in a federal prison in West Virginia.
The AP reported Reynolds is scheduled to be released in February 2013 from a halfway house in Nashville, Tenn.
Kentucky Supreme court issues decision Thursday on lawyer associated with Hodge
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