LOS ANGELES (CN) – Self-publicized and oft-quoted California civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison for trying to evade income taxes of $100,000 and bankruptcy fraud. “In this case, in my view, justice was done,” said U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson. “The jury was right.”
Yagman courted the media and was regularly quoted in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily Journal on a wide variety of topics, from civil rights matters to his attacks on federal judges. He was a frequent presence in the press room in Federal Court, freely providing his opinion.
The lawyer was sentenced after a three-day hearing before Wilson, who said in court that he was “shocked” by Yagman’s testimony, which was “so transparently untrue in so many areas.”
A federal jury convicted Yagman in June, finding him guilty of 19 felony counts – one count of attempting to evade payment of taxes, one count of bankruptcy fraud and 17 counts of money laundering.
The evidence against the lawyer was presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alka Sagar. During the original four-week, jury trial, Sagar showed that Yagman filed federal income tax returns for tax years 1994 through 1997, but paid only a small portion of the taxes that, according to his own returns, were owed to the Internal Revenue Service.
Instead of paying these overdue federal taxes, Yagman tried to conceal his assets, according to the evidence, by depositing hundreds of thousands of dollars into various bank and brokerage accounts in his girlfriend’s name. Yagman used the accounts to pay for most of his personal expenses.
In 1999, Yagman filed for bankruptcy and made a series misrepresentations in that filing, according to evidence presented to the jury. He did not disclose, for example, that he lived in a 2,800-square-foot house near the beach in Venice. Nor did he tell the Bankruptcy Court about personal bank and brokerage accounts that he controlled, but were in his girlfriend’s name, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal settlements, client payments and attorney’s fees that he received in 1999 and 2000.
“As an attorney, Mr. Yagman had a duty to play by the rules. He failed to live up to this responsibility, and now he is a convicted felon,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “Mr. Yagman will spend the next several years of his life behind bars.”