Wednesday, March 29, 2017     Volume: 31, Issue: 35

Weekly Poll
How should the SLO County Board of Supervisors address allegations that it violated the Brown Act?

Ask District Attorney Dan Dow to step in and investigate.
Hire an independent investigator to get to the bottom of it.
I trust the board members to sort it out themselves.
The allegations are political gamesmanship. Forget about them and move on.

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New Times / Breaking News Story

Moriarty gets third attorney


Al Moriarty, the former Grover Beach financier and alleged $22 million Ponzi-schemer, was back in court on March 19. Moriarty has been without a lawyer since his second attorney, Scott Whitenack, had to bow out of the case due to legal troubles of his own on Jan. 29.

Al Moriarty.

On March 19, SLO-based criminal defense attorney Jeffrey D. Stulberg was appointed as Moriarty's third attorney of record by Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney.

In a conversation with New Times on March 19, Stulberg confirmed that he had been assigned to Moriarty's case by the county, but said he was unable to discuss any specifics.

The next step in Moriarty's case will be a trial setting conference scheduled for April 30.

Moriarty, 80, was arrested in May 2013 on seven felony charges, and initially retained Tom Allen as his attorney. Moriarty dismissed a stunned Allen in favor of Whitenack during an Oct. 16 bail reduction hearing last year. Moriarty met Whitenack in September 2013 when both men were incarcerated in SLO County Jail. He retained Whitenack five days after the attorney was released from jail.

According to court documents, Whitenack made a motion for release of counsel during a pretrial hearing on Jan. 29, which was granted.

Laura Ernde, communications director for the State Bar of California, told New Times that Whitenack is no longer eligible to practice law in California, as of Feb. 3.

"Mr. Whitenack is on an interim suspension until the State Bar Court determines what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken against him," Ernde said.

Whitenack, who was initially charged with three misdemeanors and three felonies on Sept. 9, 2013, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of petty theft and driving with a suspended license on Oct. 9. The other charges were dismissed.

Ernde said that the misdemeanor charges involved "moral turpitude." Legally speaking, that's defined as conduct considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals, and is grounds for a State Bar suspension.

According to the California State Bar's interim suspension order, Whitenack argued that his conviction was unrelated to the practice of law, but the presiding judge determined that he failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove that contention.

As of March 20, the State Bar website said Whitenack is still ineligible to practice law in the state of California.