Three months after they had a shouting match in court, Brooklyn U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis slammed Long Island criminal defense lawyer Joseph Conway on Friday by referring his conduct on an appeal to a lawyer grievance committee.
Garaufis, in a 9-page opinion, said Conway “abandoned” client David Gotterup by failing to file a timely notice of appeal of his 135-month sentence in a fraud case and called his behavior “inexcusable as a matter of ethics and professionalism.”
Conway is a former federal prosecutor who headed the U.S. Attorney’s criminal division on Long Island and has become a high-profile criminal defense lawyer in Mineola whose notable clients included disgraced Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke and restaurateur Harendra Singh.
The judge said he was referring the case — in which Conway contended he told Gotterup he would have to handle the filing himself — to the Committee on Grievances in federal court as well as the chief judge of New York state’s Appellate Division for Long Island.
Conway, in an emailed statement, said, “I have practiced in the EDNY (Eastern District of New York) for over 25 years and have not had any complaints of any type whatsoever about my practice and work efforts or ethics. I wholeheartedly disagree with the decision and look forward to an opportunity to present my case.”
Gotterup, 37, of Oceanside, whose father was killed in 1991 in a notorious mob murder, pleaded guilty to running a mortgage fraud scheme. He was sentenced to 15 years in March, and then Garaufis agreed to reduce it to just over 11 years at a hearing in April.
At the second hearing, Conway argued that sometimes murderers got 15 years, and Garaufis took umbrage.
The judge said Conway didn’t know what he was talking about and he didn’t appreciate being told he was outside the mainstream. Conway cited his credentials. The exchange got heated and led to Garaufis telling Conway to stop yelling and Conway telling the judge to stop belittling him.
In his Friday ruling on Gotterup’s request to pursue an appeal despite filing his notice three days late, Garaufis made no mention of the earlier dispute with Conway, but said the late filing would be permitted because Conway was at fault.
Conway, as the judge told the story, incorrectly decided he could not file the notice when Gotterup said the grounds would be ineffective assistance of counsel, but didn’t tell his client to proceed pro se — without a lawyer — clearly enough and also confused Gotterup by continuing to represent him on other aspects of the case.
Gotterup and his brother ultimately filed the notice of appeal themselves, Garaufis said. He also said in his ruling that Gotterup might have a “plausible claim of malpractice” against Conway.