Top Attorney's Testimony Questions Cueto's Conduct Witness Says He Found `Violations of Ethical Code'
Charles Bosworth Jr. Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Amiel Cueto repeatedly violated the code of ethics for lawyers while representing gambling boss Thomas Venezia, according to testimony Tuesday by the top attorney for the Illinois agency that disciplines lawyers.
James Grogan, chief counsel for the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, testified as an expert witness in Cueto's federal trial in East St. Louis.
As Assistant U.S. Attorney Miriam Miquelon described her view of Cueto's conduct in several incidents to Grogan, he stated again and again that he found "numerous violations of the ethical code" that all lawyers are required to observe. Grogan said Cueto could not defend his actions as "zealous" representation of a client because they involved ethical violations. Among those cited by Grogan were: Dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. Conflicts of interest between multiple clients. Filing false pleadings in court. Violating attorney-client confidentiality. Impugning the integrity of a judge or a court. Grogan said the commission had agreed to prosecutors' request to withhold consideration of disciplinary action against Cueto until after the trial. Grogan noted that U.S. Attorney W. Charles Grace and District Judge William D. Stiehl had sent information about Cueto's conduct to the commission. Grogan also said commission members had taken seriously a threat by Cueto to indict some of them while he was considering running for state's attorney in St. Clair County last year - a plan he later abandoned. He had reacted angrily to the commission's letter alleging that he may have participated in a criminal conspiracy, and in a return letter called the commission "the most corrupt organization in state government." Grogan said, "Quite honestly, we believed that Mr. Cueto would, if it was possible, prosecute members of the agency." He added, "We took his statement seriously, yes." Cueto, 48, a prominent lawyer from Belleville, is charged with conspiracy and obstructing justice for what prosecutors called "an all-out effort" to derail the federal investigation that resulted in gambling and racketeering convictions against Venezia in 1995. Prosecutors said Cueto was a "silent partner" in some parts of the multimillion-dollar empire of gambling and topless nightclubs operated by Venezia, who is now serving a 15-year sentence. …