The Albany Times Union by CAROL DeMARE - September 23, 2009
ALBANY, NY -- A City Court jury found a former assistant public defender guilty late Tuesday of having sex with a client in return for promising to work harder on her case. The six-member panel convicted Matthew Swedick, now 39, with one misdemeanor count of official misconduct. He was acquitted on two other counts of the same charge. The case against him goes back two years when he was assigned to represent Latoya Gorton on drug charges following an April 2007 raid on the Albany home Gorton shared with a boyfriend. Gorton testified when the attorney-client relationship started Swedick essentially told her he would work harder, prioritize her case and treat her as a private-paying client if she engaged in sex with him. Those allegations constituted criminal activity because of Swedick's role as an attorney on the public payroll, Special Prosecutor Michael Koenig said.
The jury seated before Judge Thomas Keefe heard two tapes that Gorton secretly made at times when she was in Swedick's law office. Keefe allowed the tapes to be introduced as evidence at the request of Koenig. Defense attorney James Long objected to them. Gorton used a hidden recorder on the advice of an attorney in Kingston whom she consulted. Much of the tapes were inaudible. However, the one in which she performed oral sex in August 2007 supported the third misconduct charge, and that was the charge on which he was convicted. He was acquitted on the two counts involving sexual intercourse that took place in Swedick's office in May of that year to which Gorton testified. The jury deliberated six hours. Keefe did not set a sentencing date to allow Long to make post-trial motions. A Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum of one year in the county jail. Also, it is expected the disciplinary committee that oversees attorneys' conduct could look into the case, court officials said.
Swedick testified he had sex with Gorton after the two developed a relationship, and while it was a mistake in judgment it had nothing to do with his job. He said he made no promises to her, and there were no demands. Flirting and joking around went on in that office, he said. Long said if private lawyers had sex with a client it wouldn't be handled as a crime but something possibly the disciplinary committee would look into. Long said he plans an appeal to Albany County Court on several grounds, including the tapes should never have been allowed into evidence. At least 80 percent of the tape was inaudible, he said. Gorton, now 32, and a resident of Newburgh, met with Swedick at his office several times to discuss her case. It was her first arrest and she told the lawyer she didn't think she should go to prison. Police had confiscated 39 grams of crack cocaine and $10,375, in cash at the Ontario Street home. Gorton said $1,951 of that was from her job at Coldwell Banker where she worked as a real estate agent and insisted the lawyer get it back. Detective Mike Haggerty, who handles forfeiture cases for Albany police, testified the department wrote Gorton a check for that amount.