Alameda County Judge Arraigned On Elder Theft, Perjury Charges
OAKLAND (CBS SF) — An Alameda County Superior Court judge was arraigned Friday on charges that he stole at least $1.6 million from a 97-year-old neighbor in the Berkeley hills over the course of more than a decade.
Judge Paul Seeman, 57, who was accompanied by Walnut Creek defense attorney Michael Markowitz, declined to comment to reporters after his brief hearing in Wiley Manuel Court.
Seeman, who is charged with one count of elder theft and 11 counts of perjury, was arrested in his courtroom in the same courthouse on Thursday and spent the night at the Glenn Dyer Jail, which is next door.
He was released Friday after he posted $525,000 bail.
Dressed in a brown suit, Seeman nervously held a roll of papers in his hands as he sat in the second row of the courtroom of Judge Eric Labowitz, a visiting judge from Mendocino County, while he waited for his case to be called.
He is scheduled to return to court on July 3 to enter a plea.
When he left the courthouse, Seeman was heckled by Occupy Oakland protesters who were having a rally in front of the building.
The protesters said they recognized Seeman because on March 20, he issued an order requiring four Occupy Cal demonstrators to stay at least 100 yards away from all University of California at Berkeley property except when they go to and from work.
According to a probable cause declaration filed in court by Berkeley police officers, who investigated Seeman for more than two years, Seeman stole thousands of dollars from his neighbor, Anne Nutting, after her husband, Lee Nutting, died in 1999 at age 90.
The declaration said Seeman sold off Anne Nutting’s art collection and other possessions, tried to bar her from her own home and used her garage to store his 1958 Ford Thunderbird.
Seeman initially befriended Nutting in December 1998 after her husband suffered a fall at the couple’s home on Santa Barbara Road in Berkeley and police deemed the home to be uninhabitable due to hoarding, according to the declaration. The Nuttings then moved into the Radisson Hotel at the Berkeley Marina.
Seeman offered to help the Nuttings because they were all alone and had no one to rely on because they had no family, no children and no friends, the statement said.
In January 1999, Seeman obtained a durable power of attorney for the Nuttings after finding $1 million worth of stock certificates and uncashed dividend checks in their house, according to the statement.
Lee Nutting died on Dec. 29, 1999, and between April and June 2000, Seeman arranged the sale of two properties the Nuttings owned in Santa Cruz, according to Berkeley police.
By August 2004, Seeman had taken over almost all of Anne Nutting’s financial affairs, putting his name on her bank accounts as joint tenant and on her investment accounts as a transferee on death, the statement said. There was more than $2.2 million in the accounts at that time, according to the statement.
Nutting lived at the Radisson Hotel for nine years because Seeman did not want her to return to her home and tried to get her to move into senior housing, Berkeley police said.
Nutting finally moved back to her home in 2007 and obtained the help of an attorney who revoked Seeman’s durable power of attorney and asked that Seeman remove his name from all of her bank accounts and stop handling her financial affairs, according to the statement.
However, Seeman didn’t remove his name from any of Nutting’s accounts and continued to maintain control over her taxes and safe deposit boxes, according to the declaration.
In March 2010, Nutting’s attorney went to Berkeley police and reported that Nutting, who was 97 at the time, was a victim of financial elder abuse at the hands of Seeman, the statement said.
Nutting died the following month on April 17, 2010.
According to the probable cause statement, all Superior Court judges must file statements of economic interests, signed under penalty of perjury, declaring all sources of income and personal loans, but Seeman failed to disclose a $250,000 personal loan from Nutting.
The statement says Seeman also failed to report investments totaling more than $1.4 million in 40 local properties between March 2003 and June 2009.
Seeman earned his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Seeman, who is a Democrat, was appointed by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in March 2009.
He served as a court commissioner for Alameda County Superior Court from 2004 to 2009 and served as a referee pro tem for the county’s Juvenile Court from 1991 to 2004.
Prior to working as a Juvenile Court referee and a court commissioner, he worked as a deputy county counsel for the Alameda County Counsel’s Office and for many years as a sole practitioner.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)