“Fallen out of favor”: Matson seeks 37-month prison sentence

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Struck lawyer Bruce Matson is set to be sentenced on November 22. (BizSense File)

Less than two weeks before Bruce Matson appeared before a federal judge to hear his fate, representatives on both sides of his criminal case weighed in on how long the disgraced veteran Richmond lawyer is expected to spend behind bars.

The longtime former lawyer for LeClairRyan, who admitted to stealing millions of dollars from LandAmerica’s bankruptcy estate while he was a trustee, has requested a prison sentence of up to 37 months, according to the documents of the court Monday.

Federal prosecutors recommend a sentence of at least 46 months and a fine of $ 250,000.

Judge John Gibney will have the final say at a sentencing hearing on Nov. 22 at the Richmond Federal Courthouse. Matson has pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing formal process, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Documents filed this week in the case feature two images of Matson, who is now 64 and has been struck off the bar.

Dozens of letters filed in court on Matson’s behalf seek mercy from the judge, praising a lawyer, husband, father, friend and devotee who they believe made an inexplicable and unusual error in judgment.

“Bruce Matson has suffered a huge fall from grace,” his lawyers wrote in a 26-page memo this week. “He stands before this tribunal not only humbled and ashamed, but with unwavering contrition. He hopes that after serving his sentence, he can return to his family and community and recover as a productive and active member of society.

The prosecution sees a calculating, multi-year plan built on Matson abusing his stature in the relatively small circle of high profile bankruptcy lawyers and sullying the almost sacred trust placed in these trustees.

The US attorney’s office describes “furious but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to cover up criminal conduct that spanned from 2015 to 2019, during which time the accused used his position as court-appointed trustee to hijack, hijack and dispel over $ 4 million from the Alabama bankruptcy laws trust entrusted to him.

“His long experience in Alabama bankruptcy laws allowed him to know when and where his opportunities for robbery lay,” the prosecution said in its 13-page argument.

Those in Matson’s camp, without excusing his crimes, argue that extraordinary circumstances in his personal life, further inflamed by LeClairRyan’s impending disappearance, led to his unusual actions. He has no criminal record.

“We respectfully submit that this storm of events has led an otherwise law-abiding man to engage in reprehensible behavior,” his lawyers wrote. Many details of his personal and family struggles are redacted in court records for reasons of confidentiality to family members.

Prosecutors say Matson’s theft was uncovered primarily because of LeClairRyan’s bankruptcy, which led to his finances being audited by a trustee.

LeClairRyan’s desk is padlocked in the archive photo. (BizSense File)

“The collapse of the defendant’s law firm produced – for the defendant, at least – an unwelcome review of the law firm’s active liabilities,” including its looting of millions of dollars from the bankruptcy liquidation account of LandAmerica, prosecutors say. “Realizing that close scrutiny would expose his criminal conduct, the accused engaged in obstructive conduct. ”

The obstructions in question include Matson lying in letters and in-person testimony in bankruptcy court after missing LandAmerica funds were discovered in 2019. He also created fraudulent bank accounts and supplemented LandAmerica’s liquidation budget to allow funds to flow more freely and undetected.

Matson was ultimately removed from his post, over his objections, as a director of LandAmerica, a position he had held since the company’s bankruptcy in 2008. He later admitted to having skimmed off another directorial affair at LandAmerica. bankruptcy.

“The accused cannot credibly argue that his actions are the result of a momentary error in judgment or the sad by-product of a particularly stressful time,” says the prosecution.

Both sides agree that Matson took full responsibility for his crimes, cooperated with the government investigation, paid back all the stolen money, and is aware that what he did deserves punishment.

The dozens of letters of support filed with the court came from family members, fellow lawyers, former paralegals, friends, fellow church members and pals of his time on the Appalachian Trail.

Cheryl Matson, his wife of over 40 years, described to Judge Gibney an exemplary and loving husband and father to their two daughters, while trying to reconcile how he and his family ended up in this situation.

“As we all stumble, I am still in absolute shock and totally unable to understand Bruce’s missteps in this matter as they do not fit the man I know as my husband at all,” Ms Matson wrote. . “These are conditions I could never have imagined.”

The letters also describe many examples of her generosity, including helping family members, employees and even strangers in need. He has consistently helped other lawyers and paralegals advance in their careers, the letters say.

Gary Le Clair

Among the letters is one from Gary LeClair, co-founder and namesake of LeClairRyan who worked with Matson for decades as a longtime leader of the company. Now with Williams Mullen, LeClair himself is trapped in a legal battle with LeClaiRyan’s bankruptcy trustee.

He stressed that his relationship with Matson was not one of close friendship, but that he was a trusted and loyal colleague in running a law firm.

“For almost anything under the sun, there has been a season for us,” LeClair said of everything he and Matson have been through at the firm. “And for each of those seasons, Bruce has been a strong and steadfast pillar of virtue. I never doubted his inherent goodness.

LeClair, who states in the letter that he and Matson never discussed the LandAmerica affair, laments that he did not do more to help Matson when things went wrong.

“I must, however, admit that when Bruce could have had the help of a partner, I just sat there with my arms folded. Maybe when the forts stumble, we shouldn’t assume that they will always straighten out quickly and without error, ”said LeClair.

Of the fifty or so letters submitted to court, LeClair’s is one of the few that attempts to explain in detail why Matson may have strayed from his seemingly righteous path. He theorized that this was due to a man trying to overdo it in the face of increasing pressures in his personal and professional life.

“The respected and trusted top partner I now knew was not himself and seemed scattered and, in my opinion, deeply distracted and overly stressed,” LeClair wrote, describing Matson’s condition during the period. in question. “While brilliant, Bruce was never detail-oriented and his best job was done when he got the job done with the detailed support and scrutiny of others. His condition at the end of 2018 and the changes experienced by his law firm during this period exacerbated this weakness.

“The impending failure of our business in the summer of 2019 and the events leading up to it added to Bruce’s condition,” added LeClair. “Bruce believed in our values ​​and invested the best years of his career practicing and leading law there. A failure of his life’s work was overwhelming.

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