Rodney G. Goggin, a Stafford lawyer and part-time judge, was sentenced to eight months in jail Monday after pleading guilty to five counts of felony embezzlement.
The sentence, handed down in Stafford County Circuit Court, was the result of a plea agreement that called for 10 years in jail, with all but eight months suspended. Goggin also was ordered to pay back $225,000 he owes his clients and will be on supervised probation for seven years after his release.
"We felt like it was fair," said Mark Gardner, Goggin's attorney and friend.
Prince William County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John V. Notarianni, who argued the case, said that Goggin stole nearly $500,000 from the trust accounts of several clients to settle personal debts, most of which arose from bad real estate decisions he made in the early 1990s.
Goggin did not dispute the charges. He said his problems arose when a downturn in the real estate market coincided with a downturn in his practice, leaving him with little income and a mountain of debt.
"This was my problem, and I accept full responsibility," Goggin said.
He will begin serving the sentence at Rappahannock Regional Jail on Friday.
Virginia State Police began investigating Goggin after several complaints were filed last year. The Virginia Bar Association initiated its own investigation in the fall, and Goggin was indicted in January.
In an odd twist, Goggin's former secretary, Maria T. Schleigh, has been charged with 13 counts of embezzlement. Goggin denied any knowledge of Schleigh's activities. If she is found guilty at her November trial, Schleigh will be responsible for $46,000 of the $225,000 that Goggin owes his clients.
As part of the deal, Goggin is not permitted to declare bankruptcy or renege in any way on the debts. But paying back such a large amount, especially for a convicted felon who has lost his law license, will be difficult, Gardner said.
"He's 55 years old and now a convicted felon," Gardner said. "His options are not going to be very good. At this point, we don't know where [the money] will come from."
Monday's decision brings to a close the surprising downfall of Goggin, a longtime Stafford resident and a respected, well-liked lawyer and judge. Several of Goggin's colleagues testified on his behalf Monday, and the local legal community remains in a state of shock over his rapid decline.
"I think it's fair to say everyone who knows him is shocked," Gardner said. "Lawyers I know who practiced here and have known him for years are shocked and amazed."