A Hampstead attorney, whose March child-abuse conviction was going to cost him his job, has been given a chance to clear his criminal record.
Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. on Tuesday granted the 47-year-old lawyer probation before judgment, which replaces a suspended two-year sentence imposed May 27. With probation before judgment, imposition of the conviction is suspended, and it will be erased from the man's record if he completes 300 hours of community service and five years of probation.
On March 23, the man pleaded not guilty to a single count of child abuse, but agreed to allow prosecutors to read into evidence enough information to convict him. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped two sexual-abuse charges and one assault charge.
According to charging documents filed in the case, the man fondled his daughter between 1989 and 1991, when she was 12 to 14 years old.
The man, whose name is being withheld to protect the privacy of the child, repeated the abuse once or twice a week, court records show.
The man could have received a maximum 15-year sentence on the single child-abuse conviction.
After the man was sentenced May 27, his employer wrote to him, saying, "I am concerned that the clients of the firm may complain that I had an obligation to notify them of your felony conviction, and failure to do so constitutes negligence on my part. . . . Accordingly, it is my decision that your employment . . . be terminated."
Ten days later, the man filed a motion for modification of his sentence.
In the motion, the man's lawyer said that his conviction -- and subsequent loss of employment -- "will seriously jeopardize his ability to provide for the care and welfare, including health
insurance coverage for his children." The motion asked for probation before judgment.
The employer had allowed the man to continue working pending the outcome of Tuesday's sentence-modification hearing.
Court records indicate that the employer is now likely to let the man keep his job.
"I understand that [the man] is hopeful you may consider probation [before judgment]," the employer wrote in an Oct. 29 letter to Judge Beck. "In that event . . I would be comfortable with [his] continued employment."
Prosecutors opposed granting probation before judgment, saying in court filings that the original sentence "was fair, reasonable and within the statute."