The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the criminal convictions of Baltimore defense lawyer Neil W. Steinhorn and local pawnbroker Eugene Petasky, saying the trial judge did not err in making several rulings that affected evidence and the jury's verdicts.
A three-judge appellate panel ruled, on one key issue, that authorities did not entrap Steinhorn when he laundered money through a Caribbean bank and converted stolen gold to cash through Petasky's Metro Brokers pawn shop on North Eutaw Street for an FBI informant and an undercover agent.
The appellate judges also said Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, who presided over the Steinhorn-Petasky trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore last year, acted properly by allowing prosecutors to present damaging evidence on both defendants to the jury, and in deciding not to question the entire jury about possible taint after one juror was dismissed for saying he was "for the government" in the case.
Steinhorn, a former city prosecutor, argued that the FBI "induced" him into committing crimes by using informant vTC Christopher Turner to tempt him into laundering cash and allegedly stolen gold in a sting operation, and by using undercover Agent Edward Dickson to continue the sting after Turner dropped out of sight.
The 4th Circuit judges ruled, however, that "there was no evidence" that the government "put Turner up to inducing Steinhorn to commit the offenses."
In addition, the court rejected Steinhorn's argument that the $100,000 fee he was supposed to get for laundering $250,000 in illicit funds was too much to resist.
"Where is the line to be drawn between solicitation and inducement, how much money is too much?" the court said. "This argument did not avail Adam and Eve [in the Garden of Eden], nor does it avail Steinhorn."
The decision was issued Oct. 11 at the 4th Circuit's headquarters in Richmond, Va. It became available yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Steinhorn, 41, was sentenced to 33 months in prison without parole in September 1990 after his convictions on 12 charges, but he has been free pending appeal. He was suspended from practicing law after the trial and will be disbarred if the convictions stand.
Defense lawyer Richard M. Karceski said yesterday he will advise Steinhorn to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Petasky, who was convicted of conspiracy, was sentenced to 90 days on home detention, two years' probation and a $10,000 fine for conspiring with Steinhorn to sell the alleged stolen gold to an Ohio scrap jewelry dealer who took it out of state.
Petasky already has served his 90-day term.
His defense lawyer, Charles G. Bernstein, said yesterday that Petasky's pawnbroker's license will be revoked if his conviction stands. The revocation was ordered, but stayed pending appeals.