Attorney convicted on theft charge


Convicted of stealing from two aspiring businessmen and accused of bilking a senile octogenarian and a dead woman's surviving daughter, Richard G. Wiley Jr. is a lawyer whose career -- not to mention his freedom -- is on the line.

Wiley faces up to 15 years in prison after a jury convicted him yesterday of stealing more than $10,000 from two men who hired him to help them obtain a liquor license and open a convenience store in West Baltimore.

But that take is small change compared with the $185,000 that the lawyer, 37, allegedly collected from an elderly man who kept an apartment in the building that houses Wiley's office.

The state Attorney Grievance Commission also accuses Wiley -- a 6-foot-5-inch, 340-pound former college football player who was admitted to the practice of law in 1987 -- of using his size to intimidate a 73-year-old woman into paying $63,000 for legal services connected with her dead mother's $150,000 estate.

The commission has initiated "disciplinary action" proceedings, which could mean disbarment, against Wiley.

Former Morgan State University football coach Earl Banks, University of Baltimore law professor Byron L. Warnken and state Del. Tony E. Fulton testified as character witnesses on Wiley's behalf during the nine-day trial in Baltimore Circuit Court. Also included on the list of potential defense witnesses -- but not called to the stand -- were former U.S. Rep. Parren J. Mitchell; Baltimore NAACP president Rodney Orange; homeless advocate Bea Gaddy, and Baltimore County Circuit Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr.

Wiley took a deep breath as the jury prepared to render its verdict yesterday, but showed no outward signs of emotion when his conviction for felony theft was announced.

"I have never taken anything," he said afterward. "We're going to appeal it and we're going to fight it. My reputation is at stake."

Thursday, he thumbed through the New Testament while prosecutor April Gluckstern called him a liar, a fraud and a thief during her closing argument.

She said Wiley was hired by two men who wanted to buy the Talk of the Town convenience store on North Payson Street. She said he performed legal work to earn some of the fees paid to him, but duped the men out of more. She accused Wiley of engaging in "some of the most outrageous behavior and conduct I've ever heard a lawyer commit."

Defense attorney Edward Smith Jr. argued that Wiley was innocentof the theft charge because he had "an honest belief these fees charged were reasonable." Mr. Smith, who, like his client is black, hinted that the charges were motivated by race and by Wiley's status as a small practitioner. Ms. Gluckstern denied those charges.

Ms. Gluckstern said she will ask for prison time for Wiley at his sentencing, set for June 16.

The attorney grievance commission is accusing Wiley of cleaning out an elderly man's bank account after the man had hired him to prepare his 1989 income tax returns. After the man was hospitalized in 1991, his nephew entered his residence at the Marylander Apartments, 3501 St. Paul St., and found canceled checks written to Wiley, according to the commission's petition.

The nephew then learned that his uncle had paid Wiley $185,000 over 13 months, according to the petition. Asked to justify the charges, Wiley, who kept an office in the same apartment building, said he had rendered 24-hour personal care services to the man, the petition states.

It says Wiley billed the man at his $125-an-hour rate for 148 hours a month for nine months for a total of $166,125, leaving the man's bank account with a negative balance.

The commission also accuses Wiley of overcharging the dead woman's daughter for legal services. He is charged criminally with stealing $1,000 from the woman and with writing bad checks.

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