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Shifting answers earn Milton lawyer an ethics inquiry.

Byline: Pat Murphy

A Milton attorney is on the hot seat after her explanations for contradictory filings in a criminal forfeiture case left a federal judge questioning her candor.<br />Earlier this month, U.S. Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley issued an order referring a matter of "potential attorney misconduct" involving Nathalie R. Castor to a U.S. District Court judge.<br />Kelley found a serious question existed as to whether Castor violated Professional Rule of Conduct 3.3, which forbids an attorney from making a false statement of fact to the court or offering evidence the lawyer knows to be false. The question arose regarding Castor's representation of a car dealer, Randolph Auto Brokers, in opposing the criminal forfeiture of a BMW seized in a 2013 drug case. The particular problem was her submission of an affidavit by one Shawn P. Woodford attesting to RAB holding a lien on the vehicle.<br />"Either Attorney Castor was assisting someone in perpetrating a fraud on the court by filing the Woodford affidavit, or she violated her ethical responsibilities to make a reasonable effort to ascertain it was true before filing it," Kelley writes.<br />In August 2013, the government seized a black 2008 BMW 535xi in connection with a federal indictment handed down against Jeremy Lawrence. In December 2015, Lawrence pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Judge Mark L. Wolf subsequently entered a preliminary order of forfeiture for the BMW.<br />In April 2016, RAB, represented by Castor, intervened in the case to contest the forfeiture, alleging it was the primary lien holder of the car. In support of the petition, Castor introduced the affidavit of Woodford. In the affidavit, Woodford stated he was the owner of RAB and had sold the BMW to Lawrence in June 2013. According to Woodford, Lawrence financed $10,500 of the purchase price and had failed to repay the loan.<br />The government responded with evidence undermining the truthfulness of Woodford's affidavit. In a handwritten, sworn statement obtained by police shortly before Lawrence's indictment, Woodford said Lawrence had paid him cash and crack cocaine to help register the car, that there had been no financing, and that RAB's loan documents were for a "dummy" loan.<br />Castor responded with her own affidavit acknowledging that several of the statements in the Woodford affidavit were false. Castor further indicated that she had only recently learned that RAB was owned by someone by the name of Daniel Daugherty, not Woodford.<br />Castor followed up by filing an affidavit by Daugherty in which he asserted he was the owner of RAB and had sold the BMW to Lawrence. Like Woodford before him, Daugherty asserted Lawrence had failed to repay him a $10,500 loan to finance the purchase.<br />At a March 2017 status conference, Kelley asked Castor how the attorney could file two affidavits stating that two different people owned RAB and the car.<br />Castor asserted that some "unknown person" had come to sign the Woodford affidavit while she was away from her office. Kelley noted that Castor later tried to explain away the Woodford affidavit as some kind of scrivener's error.<br />The government muddied the waters even further by producing evidence that RAB was not even a licensed auto dealer at the time of the BMW sale to Lawrence.<br />In May 2017, Castor moved to withdraw as counsel and moved to withdraw the Woodford affidavit, asserting that she had come to realize it contained inaccurate information.<br />But the damage had been done.<br />"While the court at first gave Attorney Castor the benefit of the doubt as to whether she was in violation of Rule of Professional Conduct 3.3, as the case progressed, her actions and her representations to the court only became more questionable," Kelley writes.<br />Boston professional liability attorney Alan E. Brown says the allegations against Castor are serious.<br />"The allegation of making intentional misrepresentations to the court is definitely an allegation that would carry a sanction of public discipline," the Morrison Mahoney lawyer says. "It's impossible to say how this is going to play out, but it would not be unusual to see a sanction as significant as a suspension."<br />Brown says Castor would have been well advised to consult with ethics counsel when it first became apparent there was a problem with the Woodford affidavit.<br />"This is one of those situations where the way it was addressed seemed to have made it worse rather than better," Brown says. "Whenever the court is expressly questioning your veracity, and you're not sure how to respond, that's when you need to seek your own counsel before you respond."<br />Castor is represented by Boston attorneys James E. McCall and William J. Keefe. The lawyers say in a statement that their client "has an impeccable reputation and looks forward to addressing these issues in court."<br />The matter has been assigned to Judge Leo T. Sorokin, who issued an order to show cause why the court should not suspend Castor from practicing in the U.S. District Court and refer the matter to the Board of Bar Overseers for further discipline. Sorokin scheduled an Aug. 2 hearing on the matter.

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Title Annotation:Nathalie R. Castor, Massachusetts
Author:Murphy, Pat
Publication:Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
Date:Jul 26, 2018
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