A Washington-based attorney who admitted in January to stealing more than $100,000 intended for his clients has been sentenced to six months in prison, followed by six months of house arrest.
Deairich Hunter was sentenced Thursday for pilfering payments to settle disability and personal injury claims by his clients. As part of his punishment, Hunter was ordered by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell to pay restitution of $253,549 and forfeit $73,901.
From 2003 to 2009, Hunter was hired by clients in disputes arising from disability and personal injury claims. Many of the clients agreed he was entitled to one third of the recovery, according to court papers. Hunter failed to notify some of his clients, however, keeping settlement money for himself. Hunter was disbarred in 2009. Hunter pleaded guilty in January to theft or embezzlement related to health care.
The prison sentence matched the recommendation that federal prosecutors made to the judge. In the government's sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Graves wrote that Hunter "must be punished for these brazen thefts and others must be deterred from engaging in similar conduct.” Graves also said Hunter “disgraced his profession by breaking the sacred trust between attorney and client."
However, Graves also wrote that there were factors that weighed in Hunter's favor; including his early acceptance of responsibility, lack of criminal history and that it appeared Hunter did not need rehabilitation.
Hunter's attorney, Danny Onorato of Schertler & Onorato, wrote in a sentencing memo that his client "stands before the court with deep remorse.”
“In imposing sentence, Mr. Hunter asks the court to consider his positive contributions to his community over the years, the aberrational nature of his criminal conduct, and the steps he has recently taken to return his life to a productive and law-abiding path," Onorato wrote.
Onorato declined to comment on the sentence.