OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A former Alameda County Superior Court judge who was accused of stealing the life savings of his elderly neighbor in the Berkeley Hills over a period of more than a decade faces only five years’ probation under a plea agreement reached Thursday.
Paul Seeman, 58, was charged with 12 counts each of perjury and offering a false or forged instrument, three counts each of elder theft and grand theft, and two counts of unauthorized disclosure of information.
Of the 32 total counts, all were felonies except for the two counts of unauthorized disclosure of information, which were misdemeanors.
Seeman had potentially faced a lengthy sentence if he’d been convicted of all the charges against him, but the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office agreed to dismiss most of the charges today and to accept his no contest plea to two felonies: one count each of elder abuse and perjury.
Seeman’s hearing at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland was handled by retired Placer County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens, as all Alameda County judges had recused themselves from his case. Couzens will sentence Seeman at a hearing Oct. 22.
The charges against Seeman stem from allegations that he stole from his neighbor, Anne Nutting, after her husband Lee died in 1999 at age 90. Nutting died at the age of 97 in April 2010.
Berkeley police had investigated Seeman for more than two years before he was arrested in his chambers at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland on June 15, 2012. He spent one night in custody at the Glenn Dyer Jail, which is next to the courthouse, but then was released on $552,000 bail.
Seeman was put on leave shortly after he was arrested but continued to receive his judicial salary until he agreed in March to resign from his job as judge.
A declaration filed in court by Berkeley police states that Seeman befriended Nutting in December 1998 after her husband fell at the couple’s home on Santa Barbara Road and police found the home to be uninhabitable because of hoarding.
Police said Seeman obtained power of attorney for the couple the next month after he found $1 million in stock certificates and uncashed dividend checks in their home.
According to police, Seeman arranged the sale of two Santa Cruz properties the couple owned after Lee Nutting died in late 1999 and by August 2004 he had assumed control of nearly all of Anne Nutting’s monetary affairs, putting his name on her financial accounts, which contained more than $2.2 million.
District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said that as a result of Seeman’s convictions Thursday, he is barred by law from judicial office and disbarred from practicing law in California and he will be required not to “harm, molest or annoy” Ali Mehrizi, who married Anne Nutting after Lee Nutting did and is her surviving husband.
Drenick said Seeman has already paid the amount of $299,436 in restitution for loan and interest costs and will pay an additional restitution of $5,649 before he’s sentenced.
District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a statement that she believes, “Justice is served through the resolution of this case” because Seeman “will never serve in a position of trust or authority again as a result of these convictions.”
O’Malley said Seeman “was removed from his judicial seat as a result of this case” and will be on probation for five years “with extensive terms and conditions.”
O’Malley said, “Paul Seeman is not a free man; he is under the authority of the Probation Department for the next several years” and can be sent to county jail or local prison if he violates any term or condition of his probation.
She said, “Seeman has paid for his breach of trust as a judicial officer and, he has paid for his financial abuse of the elderly victim who has since passed away.”
Seeman’s lawyer, Laurel Headley, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment on his case.
Seeman earned his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school and his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
A Democrat, Seeman was appointed by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzanegger in March 2009.
He previously served as a court commissioner for Alameda County Superior Court from 2004 to 2009 and as a referee pro tem for the county’s juvenile court from 1991 to 2004.
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