Ex-lawyer gets 3 years for theft Brooklyn Park man stole $645,000 from estate

April 02, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 70-year-old disbarred lawyer was sentenced in Anne Arundel Circuit Court yesterday to three years in prison for stealing $645,000 from a client to help shore up his failing title company.

William Hackney of the 200 block of Tenth St., Brooklyn Park, admitted taking the money from the estate of Virginia Shipley Murphy, which he represented after she died in 1989.

He used the money to run the Central Maryland Title Co., the company he operated from 1965 to 1994, said Assistant State's Attorney Warren W. Davis III.

John S. Smith, Hackney's Glen Burnie lawyer, said he used the money only to shore up the title company, which at its peak conducted about 200 property settlements a month and operated offices in Annapolis, Severna Park and Glen Burnie.

Hackney pleaded guilty Oct. 30 to theft and fraudulent misappropriation.

Mr. Smith had asked that Hackney be allowed to serve any prison time under house arrest or be given a suspended sentence so he could help support his wife as a $500-a-month courier. The couple, who have three grown children, get $1,800 a month in Social Security payments, he said.

But Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. said the crime was just as serious as any other high-stakes theft.

Afterward, Hackney declined to comment. But Mr. Smith appeared shocked by the severity of the sentence.

"I think the punishment is much too much," he said.

Judge Thieme also ordered Hackney to pay $393,228 in restitution -- the amount yet to be returned to Mrs. Murphy's survivors, Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Davis said members of Mrs. Murphy's family live in Florida. They were not in court yesterday.

Hackney voluntarily surrendered his license to practice law last summer, Mr. Smith said.

He said Hackney was returning the money to the estate's account even before the investigation began last year. "He would have put it back -- all of it, every cent," Mr. Smith told Judge Thieme.

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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