Leverage: New York Lawyer Given Three Years Suspension for Attempted Sex with Minor

thumb_scales_of_justiceSteven J. Lever, a former associate at Kirkland & Ellis has been given a suspension of just three year from practice by the New York appeals court in a 3-2 decision. Lever was nailed in a sting operation where he attempted to have sex with a 13-year-old girl. Many object to the suspension of surprising light under the circumstances.

New York Appellate Division, 1st Department, held that Steven J. Lever “brought shame to himself and to this State’s Bar” in his attempt “to prey on minors for purposes of sexual gratification.”

Lever used the firm’s computers to communicated with the girl, who was really a police officer. The light suspension was likely due to the fact that Lever only pleaded guilty in 2005 to a misdemeanor charge in connection with the incident and was sentenced to six years’ probation. Moreover, Lever admitted his guilt and having a sex compulsion — agreeing to enter a sex offender treatment program. He will have to go through a psychiatric evaluation before resuming practice.

The case offers an interesting take on such arrests. The Bar and law firms have been leading other professions in dealing with alcohol and chemical dependency — allowing lawyers to continue to practice when they admit such addictions and seek help. The question is whether this type of criminal conduct is more of a compulsion or a crime. The court treated it as a crime but used the same type of approach taken in compulsion cases — mitigating for admission of guilt and entrance in a recovery program.

Two justices wanted to disbar Lever.

For the decision, click here.

For the full story, click here.

2 thoughts on “Leverage: New York Lawyer Given Three Years Suspension for Attempted Sex with Minor”

  1. I’ve had these cases in both state and fedral court. Local law enforcement (in 5-6 cases I’ve represented people on) have always obtained written confessions of intent from the defendants. These guys are in such shock when they get caught. The confessions have always included signed copies of the transcripts of the instant messanger chats they’ve had with law enforcement, and the police have been very good at having the confession include language about the intent of the defendamt to have sex with a minor.

    That the consumation of the intended act is a factual impossibility has not bothered the courts here in Illinois. A good friend of mine was denied cert by the Illinois Supreme Court after the Appellate Court for the 1st District (Chicago, Cook County, the Appellant’s name was Blumenthal if you want to look up the published opinion) didn’t buy any of the arguments regarding impossibility, or that the statute criminalised mere speech. Before they created (about 6 years ago??, maybe a little longer) an internet/phone Indecent solicitation of a child statute in Illinois, the police used to have to actually have a bogus meeting, to show there was an physical act beyond the conversation. They don’t have to do that any more in Illinois. They still do in most cases however, because of problems proving who was on the computer for the convesations.

    In his brief my pal argued that someone might enjoy having conversations with men pretending to be kids for fun, with no criminal intent, just because the defendant liked to talk to cops. The federal virtual porn statute had been struck at about the same time he appealed this, so it didn’t seem like such a bizare argument at the time.

  2. This punishment does seem light under the circumstances. The part I don’t understand is how anyone can be held criminally liable for trying to solicit sex from another adult who just happens to be pretending to be a 13 year old? Isn’t it impossible to complete this crime if the person you are communicating with is an adult? If the police can pretend to be a child, isn’t there a good defense that the perp was pretending to be a sex offender?

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