- Upstate New York Law School Fires Disgraced Attorney (February 22, 2009)
- Law Professor Pleads Guilty to Filing False Instrument and Tampering (February 21, 2009)
- NY State Supreme Court Judge Resigns, Admits Wrongdoing (Febraury 20, 2009)
- NY Supreme Court Judge Expected to Resign, Pressured by Corrupt 'Ethics' Committee (February 20, 2009)
Anne E. Adams emerged as a shamed figure in a basement courtroom downtown Thursday morning. The former prosecutor and later defense attorney stood tall at her own sentencing, but with her head bowed for virtually the entire 23 minutes, choosing to speak only in monosyllables. Then she was led away in handcuffs to spend 15 days in the county jail, her punishment for trying to cover up her drunken-driving arrest last September.
But Adams’ unusual case took another strange twist Thursday afternoon, when a senior state appellate judge granted her a stay of sentencing, giving her attorney 120 days to appeal the sentence. She left the back entrance of the Erie County Holding Center shortly before 4 p. m., joined by three friends and relatives who tried to shield her from being photographed. “I’ve never encountered a case quite like this,” Adams’ attorney, James P. Harrington, said earlier in court, referring to his almost 40 years as a criminal defense attorney. “I’m not sure if it’s more of a Greek tragedy, a Shakespearean play or a John Grisham novel.” Whether Adams serves a day in jail won’t be known for months, but the sight of her being led away in handcuffs showed how far she had fallen, from her roles as a longtime Erie County assistant district attorney, popular University at Buffalo Law School figure, mentor to many young female attorneys and a possible judicial candidate as recently as last summer. In the last few months, Adams lost her license to practice law in New York State and was fired from her part-time supervisory job at UB Law School. Then she went to jail, if only for six hours. “She’s humiliated. She’s disgraced,” Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said after the sentencing. “She no longer can be a lawyer. . . . She lost her job at the university. She’s publicly humiliated. And on top of that, she’s going to jail. I think that sends a strong message.”
A few hours later, Senior Appellate Justice Samuel L. Green granted Adams, 46, the stay of sentence, after a half-hour session in his Buffalo chambers. Green acted on the challenge by Harrington, who called the 15-day sentence unduly harsh and questioned the legality of the multilevel sentencing imposed Thursday morning. Sedita wasn’t pleased with the release, emphasizing that his office “adamantly opposed” the stay of sentence. “In our opinion, she has no legitimate appealable issue,” Sedita said. “She pleaded guilty, and as a condition of her plea, she waived her rights to an appeal.” Harrington disagreed.
“We would argue there is a sentencing issue that’s not covered by the waiver of appeal,” Harrington said without elaborating. Earlier in the day, after saying he was moved by many letters of support for Adams, acting State Supreme Court Justice Michael F. Griffith quoted the former attorney’s own words before sentencing her. “Judge, I hatched a selfish and reprehensible scheme subverting everything I hold sacred in the law,” she stated in her letter. “My actions were inexcusable.” “I think that says it all,” the judge said.
Griffith, in his sentencing remarks, addressed both those who might think the sentence was too soft and those who would consider it too harsh. “The public, lawyers included, need to be aware that if they subvert the laws of the state, like you did, there has to be punishment,” Griffith said, addressing Adams. “As much as I feel for your situation, I can’t get away from that.” Besides the 15 days, Griffith sentenced Adams to three years’ probation, continued mental health treatment, 100 hours of community service, continued drug and alcohol testing, and attendance at a DWI Impact Panel. Griffith, a Wyoming County Court judge assigned to the case in March, also included two unusual measures in his multiple sentencing provisions, ordering Adams to write two “sincere letters of apology,” both within the next 20 days. One must be sent to the Town of Hamburg officers who originally arrested her, for comments she made about them that were “totally a lie,” the judge said. The other letter must be sent to the county bar association’s newspaper, Bulletin, so the legal community can see “what got you to this stage.” Other lawyers said they could not remember such letters being ordered as part of other sentencing provisions.
Adams had pleaded guilty in February to three misdemeanors: driving while intoxicated, offering a false statement for filing and attempted tampering with physical evidence linked to her DWI arrest in the Town of Hamburg on Sept. 2. She is not the only professional who has been disgraced by her actions. After her DWI charge, based on a 0.19 percent blood-alcohol level, Adams had tried to avoid prosecution by getting a falsified blood-alcohol test and a statement from a judge that she was not intoxicated at the time. In an attempt to convince authorities that she wasn’t drunk that evening, Adams persuaded Dr. Tarik Elibol, her primary- care physician in Kenmore, to draw a sample of her blood the next day. She also asked him to falsely specify on the tube that the blood was drawn at 10 p. m. the previous day, just hours after her arrest, according to court records. Sedita chose not to prosecute Elibol because “he came clean and came clean early,” the district attorney said. In February, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph G. Makowski resigned in disgrace while facing a state judicial investigation and a potential grand jury investigation of statements he made in an affidavit in the Adams case. Makowski, in that Sept. 11 affidavit, repeatedly stated that nothing in Adams’ behavior suggested that she could not drive home safely from a downtown Buffalo restaurant on the night she was arrested.
In the courtroom Thursday morning, prosecutor Bethany A. Solek, who studied under Adams at UB Law School, told Griffith that Adams had made the choice to drive in a “highly intoxicated” condition on a busy road before manipulating others to subvert justice. “Ms. Adams solicited others, including a physician and a judge, to make false statements,” Solek said. Harrington then told the court that Adams does not minimize those actions or blame anyone else. “She’s profoundly ashamed, and rightfully so,” he added. But Harrington also cited the emotional and psychological toll on Adams, to the point that a person who has made her living as a wordsmith wasn’t able to speak to the court. “Her depression and decompensation are such that she finds it almost unbearable to face people who love her,” the defense attorney said. Adams, an Angola resident who was dressed in a black suit and white open-collar blouse, even had trouble facing the judge. Before sentencing, Griffith asked Adams whether she wanted to comment. “No,” she replied, as she continued gazing at the floor. That wasn’t the only monosyllabic answer. After the sentencing, when Harrington asked for a one-day delay on Adams’ jailing, the judge sternly said, “No.” Uniformed court officials handcuffed her and took her from the courtroom at 10:01 a. m., before a higher judge’s stay opened the jail doors for her about six hours later. email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org