A judge on Friday rejected a plea agreement between Denver prosecutors and a disbarred attorney who has admitted to defrauding an investor of $125,000, calling the possibility of the lawyer avoiding jail time and having a felony wiped clean “a miscarriage of justice.”
“Justice in this society cannot be seen as one buying oneself out of a felony conviction,” Denver District Judge Eric M. Johnson told the court during what was supposed to have been Steve Bachar’s sentencing hearing.
The unusual plea rejection came after testimony from Jamie Lindsay, who says Bachar, 57, swindled him out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With his money gone, Lindsay told the judge he had to move away from his family and friends. Instead of relaxing during retirement by his lake house, the 74-year-old, battling stage 4 lymphoma, had to sell the property and get a job to make ends meet.
“The reality is I was forced to make these decisions by a con man,” Lindsay said.
Bachar originally was scheduled to be sentenced March 3, but skipped that court appearance, leading to an arrest warrant. He returned to court Friday to be sentenced.
The lawyer in November pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft and a second count of misdemeanor theft as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. Bachar admitted in court that he took $125,000 from a man who thought he was investing in a business called Empowerment Capital
The deal stipulated that Bachar pay nearly $175,000 in restitution and that he receive a deferred judgment on the felony charge, which means the count would be scrubbed from his record if he met court-ordered conditions for two years.
But Johnson said he couldn’t accept the deal. Instead, Bachar was allowed Friday to withdraw his guilty plea and his case is now set for trial in September.
“Day in, day out people go to prison for stealing a lot less than $174,000,” the judge said.
Carolyn Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, said, “We respect the judge’s decision.”
Denver prosecutors criminally charged Bachar a year after he was sued twice and accused of mishandling nearly $2 million in funds earmarked for personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bachar, who served in the White House under President Bill Clinton and in the Treasury Department before he moved to Denver, was ordered to pay $4.5 million in those civil cases. He was disbarred in June, with authorities saying he had not paid the civil damages.
The disbarred attorney already had paid more than $174,000 in restitution as part of his plea deal. That money will be returned to him as he awaits trial.
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