Philip James Layfield
Suspended Attorney, Accused Felon
Layfield has been released on bail and is presently residing in Delaware.
He is facing trial in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on charges of mail fraud and money laundering. Trial was initially set for May 15, was continued to Aug. 14, and is now set for Feb. 26. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Layfield’s attorney, Anthony M. Solis, stipulated to the delay, and Layfield waived his speedy trial rights, in light of the voluminousness of government documents and Solis’s trial schedule, and District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald on July 31 gave his assent.
The defendant, apprehended in New Jersey in March and incarcerated until earlier this month, had previously fled to Costa Rica.
The prosecution is in connection with Layfield’s pocketing of settlement funds belonging to Josephine Nguyen, who was a client of the erstwhile law firm of Layfield & Barrett. She was to receive 60 percent of a $3.9 million settlement of her personal injury claim, amounting to $2.3 million.
Layfield was suspended from law practice by the State Bar of California after he failed to show up for his Jan. 24 disciplinary hearing. The State Bar Office of Chief Trial Counsel filed disciplinary charges against him on Sept. 20 alleging that the attorney misappropriated more than $3.4 million from his clients.
Layfield acknowledges moving funds from the attorney-client trust account to his erstwhile firm’s general fund, but insists he thought there was enough money in the coffers to cover the clients’ shares of settlements. He ascribes blame to others, including the State Bar prosecutor.
Solis on Aug. 17 filed an emergency motion for an order modifying the terms of Layfield’s release to permit him to leave his residence to attend classes paving the way for him to obtain a commercial driver’s license so he can seek employment as a truck driver.
Former Los Angeles City Attorney
Trutanich’s May 2 motion for dismissal of disciplinary charges against him was slated to be heard Sept. 4. The hearing wasn’t held. A status conference was scheduled for last Monday. It wasn’t held.
Proceedings in the matter of Los Angeles’s former city attorney have started and stopped repeatedly, with one trial continuance after another. The initial notice of charges was dated Feb. 9, 2017, and an amended notice was filed July 10, 2017.
The motion for a dismissal is now set for Oct. 5.
Trutanich, as the deputy district attorney prosecuting a capital murder case in 1985 and 1986, put on a witness who testified that she witnessed defendant fatally shooting a victim from a van. The witness said she was in a station wagon being driven by one Jean Rivers.
The defendant was convicted of first degree murder and was sentenced to death in 1986. However, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter last year found that there was prosecutorial misconduct on Trutanich’s part, declaring that “Trutanich’s failure at trial was deeply troubling,” sparking a State Bar investigation.
The Office of Chief Trial Counsel is alleging that Trutanich “knew, or was grossly negligent in not knowing” that the testimony was false insofar as the identity of the driver, whose actual name is Arlene McKay. In failing to divulge the driver’s true identity, as well as her home address, Trutanich breached his constitutional obligation of making disclosures to the defense of potentially exculpatory evidence, as required by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1963 opinion in Brady v. Maryland, it is asserted.
The charges are that Trutanich:
—By committing a Brady violation, ran afoul of Business and Professions Code §6068(a) (duty to “support the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state”).
—Suppressed evidence “in willful violation of Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 5-220.”
—Committed “an act(s) of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption in willful violation of Business and Professions Code, section 6106.”
—By “intentionally or with gross negligence” failing to correct the testimony, “committed an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption in willful violation of Business and Professions Code §6106.”
Trutanich—who served as city attorney from 2009-13 and is now at Tucker Ellis LLP in Los Angeles—is also charged with allowing a police detective to testify falsely at a pretrial hearing in the same murder case. Trutanich has denied the charges.
He is represented by ethics lawyer David C. Carr of San Diego. The Office of Chief Trial Counsel has three lawyers assigned to the case: Senior Trial Counsel Eli D. Morgenstern, co-counsel Edward O. Lear and deputy co-counsel Caitlin Marie Elen.