A Fairfax Circuit Court judge yesterday dismissed embezzlement charges against a disbarred Fairfax lawyer who had acknowledged taking $28,076 from a woman whose case he was appointed to settle.
Chief Judge Barnard F. Jennings dismissed the charges against Laurence G. Roman because of a technical mistake in evidence documents submitted against the lawyer, who said in a court document that he took the money and spent it.
The dismissal brought angry reaction from the county prosecutor in the case.
"I don't think somebody who is a sworn member of the bar should be allowed to escape on a drafting error," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Stephen Moriarity after the dismissal. He said he would seek a new indictment, adding" . . . You want to keep this from looking like the courts were covering up for one of the boys."
Roman's attorney, Plato Cacheris, argued in court that the statement of fact agreed to by Roman "doesn't prove this embezzlement occurred during the period of time the indictment covered."
Moriarity asked that he be allowed to amend the dates in the indictment because Roman had already acknowledged the scheme, but Jennings denied the request and dismissed the case.
Roman, who had been a practicing attorney in Fairfax for about 15 years, said in the written statement that he used the money "over a period of a couple of months for his own personal affairs." The indictment specified that the embezzlement occurred between July 5, 1978, and Jan. 5, 1979.
The circuit court had appointed Roman special commissioner in chancery four years ago to referee a land sale in a divorce settlement. Under Virginia law, commissioners may be appointed to assist circuit judges in handling some civil matters.
When the property in the divorce was sold, Roman turned over half the proceeds to the husband, but deposited the wife's share of the settlement into his own bank account, according to court records.
After almost four years of asking for her share of the money, the woman took Roman to court in an effort to force him to produce records involving her share of the property settlement. Roman never produced the documents, but said the woman's money was being held in a savings account.
Roman later acknowledged to a judge that he had lied. He stated in court records that in an attempt to hide his use of the woman's money, he had borrowed $50,000 from a client and deposited it in an account, claiming part of that money belonged to the woman.
On March 22, 1982, he acknowledged to Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Richard J. Jamborsky that there had been no savings account for the woman's money and that he had spent it. The woman should have received $19,912 from the sale of the property, and with interest the amount she was owed grew to $28,076, court records showed.
After the incident was exposed, Roman surrendered his license to practice law and was disbarred by the Virginia Bar Association last October.