NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 4, 2014

Our view: Courts failed victims of swindler lawyer

Phillip Thompson walked into Middlesex Superior Court last week with a smile, looking dapper in a charcoal gray, pinstripe suit accessorized with a silk pocket handkerchief and handcuffs.

Thompson had reason to smile, despite the cuffs.

The 35-year-old disbarred lawyer from Lawrence was about to pull off one more con job on his way to prison.

Thompson stole $1 million — $986,929, to be precise — from at least seven people between 2007 and 2011, when he was caught.

A jury convicted him of his crimes on Jan. 16.

The prosecution asked for a sentence of four to five years, which seems little enough when a two-bit convenience store holdup can send you away for longer if you flash a gun instead of a smile.

Judge Kathe Tuttman, who called Thompson “extremely intelligent and well educated,” sentenced him instead to just three years in prison.

You do the math, as the extremely intelligent Thompson certainly did. His crime paid him more than $325,000 per year, with no hard labor. Nice work if you can get it.

Tuttman ordered Thompson to repay the money, of course. But what are the odds of that happening?

Addressing the judge before she slapped him on the wrist, Thompson traded his smile for crocodile tears for his victims, admitted his guilt for the first time, expressed his post-conviction remorse and literally begged for mercy, something he never showed those he fleeced.

“Not a day has gone by that I haven’t labored over their distress,” he said.

We’ll believe it when we see how many days he labors to repay them when he gets out of prison.

Thompson’s friend and defense lawyer, Douglas Martin, felt Thompson’s pain. He said his client is a brilliant man who just needed an accountant to keep the books straight at his law firm.

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