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Former Balco attorney Ellerman sentenced to prison

By Julia Cheever

July 12, 2007

A federal judge in San Francisco today meted out a sentence of two and one-half years in prison for a former defense attorney who leaked secret grand jury transcripts in the BALCO sports steroid case.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said the action by Troy Ellerman, 44, and his lies about it "infected every aspect of the judicial system."

White rejected Ellerman's lawyer's argument that he should consider President Bush's commutation last week of the same two-and-one-half-year sentence for former vice presidential aide Lewis Libby for similar crimes.

The judge said the commutation was "not relevant to this proceeding" because it was an executive and not a judicial power.

In addition, the judge said, President Bush's position was "not consistent" with the stance taken by his Justice Department in a Supreme Court case that held last month that federal sentencing guidelines should be presumed to be reasonable.

Judge White, who was named to the court by Bush in 2002, said, "Under President Bush's reasoning, every white collar defendant should receive little or no jail time."

Ellerman, a former Sacramento lawyer who most recently worked as a rodeo association commissioner in Colorado, pleaded guilty in February to four counts of leaking grand jury testimony by Barry Bonds and other athletes to two San Francisco Chronicle reporters in 2004.

The four charges were two counts of contempt of court, one count of filing a false declaration and one count of obstruction of justice.

At the time, Ellerman represented Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) Vice President James Valente, who later pleaded guilty to giving anabolic steroids to professional athletes.

The 30-month sentence was within sentencing guidelines prescribing between 27 and 33 months in prison for the four counts.

Last month, White rejected a plea agreement provision that would have capped the sentence at two years in prison, saying that a below-guidelines sentence was not acceptable in view of the seriousness of the crimes.

Prosecution and defense attorneys then came up with a revised agreement last week that set the maximum sentence at 33 months, the high end of the guidelines. White accepted that plea deal today.

Defense attorney Scott Tedmon asked the judge for a sentence of one year and three months, while prosecutor Michael Raphael, an assistant U.S. attorney from Los Angeles, suggested two years.

Ellerman apologized for his acts and said, "I've messed up. I'm here to own up to it."

Asked by the judge why he leaked the information, he said his reasons were "unexamined" and denied that he had been planning all along to turn the leaks to his client's advantage.

In addition to violating a judge's order to keep the transcripts confidential, Ellerman later joined other lawyers in a motion for dismissal of the charges against Valente and three other defendants because of the leaks.

He told White today that by that time, he was caught up in the lie. "I should have had the integrity to stand up to co-counsel," Ellerman said.

White didn't impose a fine, saying that Ellerman's family had suffered enough, but ordered three years of supervised release after Ellerman's prison term. He ordered Ellerman to do community service during that time by giving 10 talks to students at California law schools about his case and the ethical duties of a lawyer.

Ellerman was ordered to report to prison on Sept. 13. He has given up his license to practice law and lost his rodeo commissioner job.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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