Former Monroe City Councilman Arthur Gilmore Jr., who was convicted in 2013 for taking bribes, asked a state attorney disciplinary committee earlier this month to let him have his license back so he could practice law.
Gilmore, who currently works as a substitute teacher, was disbarred by the state Supreme Court in 2016 in light of his conviction under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, Act.
A three-member hearing committee of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board considered Gilmore’s petition for readmission to the bar during an Aug. 8 hearing at Monroe City Court.
When asked whether he had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law since his disbarment, Gilmore said, “No, I have not.”
Gilmore said he had frequently experienced deep remorse over the actions that led to his conviction.
“I don’t think it will ever go away,” said Gilmore, 60. “This is all a result of my political career. At that time, I was thinking what I did as a politician had no effect on my practice of law.”
Since his criminal troubles began, Gilmore has worked as a substitute teacher at Monroe City Schools, with an independent living organization, with car dealerships, and now works as a substitute teacher for Ouachita Parish Schools.
“I’m not without income,” Gilmore said. “I get retirement from the City Council and DA’s office.”
Monroe attorney Brian Crawford represented Gilmore before the disciplinary committee. The state was represented by Robert Kennedy Jr., deputy disciplinary counsel for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
The hearing committee’s volunteer members included public member Charles Bennett Humphries, Ruston attorney Tyler Storms and Ruston attorney Pamela Stewart, who chaired the hearing committee.
After the conclusion of testimony, Storms asked Crawford and Kennedy to weigh in on whether a “middle ground” decision was possible, such as recommending Gilmore’s readmission to practice law with probation. Remarks made by those participating at the hearing indicated it was likely the hearing committee would make such a recommendation.
The hearing committee’s recommendation will be sent to the Attorney Disciplinary Board. The disciplinary board and the state Supreme Court will consider the recommendation, which could be accepted, altered or rejected.
In U.S.A. v. Gilmore, former Monroe City Councilman Robert “Red” Stevens pleaded guilty to violating the RICO Act in May 2013 while a jury found Gilmore guilty in September 2013 of accepting cash bribe payments in violation of the RICO Act.
A federal grand jury indicted Gilmore for engaging in a racketeering enterprise in 2010. At the time, Gilmore was a member of the Monroe City Council and also worked as an assistant district attorney under then-Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones.
The charges stemmed from Gilmore’s acceptance of money from Monroe businessman Eddie Hakim —who was the government’s key witness — in exchange for favorable votes on zoning and contract matters before the City Council.
Though Gilmore was found guilty of racketeering, he was acquitted of extortion. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison and three years of probation.
A federal appeals court upheld Gilmore’s conviction in November 2014, and he received early release from his three-year probation in late 2016. In October 2016, the state Supreme Court disbarred Gilmore from the practice of law, though the disbarment was not permanent.
Public officials testify to Gilmore’s character
In support of Gilmore’s petition for readmission to the bar, several people were issued subpoenas to testify as character witnesses.
Public officials who testified as character witnesses on Gilmore’s behalf included Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew, Fourth Judicial District Court Chief Judge Scott Leehy, Monroe City Court Judge Tammy Lee, Fourth Judicial District Court Hearing Officer Lisa Trammell Sullivan, and retired Judge Ben Jones, who now serves as the district court’s administrator.
Tew, who previously worked as an assistant district attorney under Jerry Jones, said he spent at least 15 years working with Gilmore. Tew vouched for Gilmore’s skill as an attorney in the courtroom.
“I believe he has,” said Tew, about whether he believed Gilmore had learned from his errors.
Ben Jones told the hearing committee he knew Gilmore “well” and believed Gilmore had a “good reputation” in the community.
“I feel that his readmission would not be a threat to the public,” Ben Jones said.
Kennedy asked Ben Jones whether convicted felons were allowed to serve on a jury or possess a firearm. In an answer to Kennedy’s inquiries, Ben Jones said, “No.”
“The practice of the law is a privilege, not a right,” Kennedy said.
Ben Jones said he was struck by Gilmore’s demeanor since his release from prison, because Gilmore did not display the kind of bitterness that Ben Jones found to be typical among those who had been convicted of a crime.
Leehy said he never knew Gilmore to be “untruthful.” Leehy said he believed Gilmore’s conviction stemmed from a “one-time mistake,” though he later admitted he had only seen Gilmore “infrequently” since the latter’s release from prison.
“No more than five or six times,” Leehy said. “Basically, we’d bump into each other.”
Witnesses questioned charges against Gilmore
Several witnesses expressed surprise at the case against Gilmore or even disputed the charges.
“I don’t think RICO requirements would’ve been met given the facts in this case as I understand them,” said Ben Jones, before adding later, “I’m not questioning the jury’s decision in this case.”
“I was frankly surprised at the charges,” Ben Jones said.
When Leehy was asked to detail his reaction to the charges against Gilmore, he said, “That was a surprise to me.”
“That was not the Arthur Gilmore I know,” Leehy said. “It seemed out of character for him.”
Brenda Howell, a former assistant district attorney who worked closely with Gilmore, said she did not believe Gilmore posed any risk to the public by resuming his practice of law.
“We have never wavered from believing — I know we’re not supposed to talk about innocence — his integrity,” Howell said.
Sullivan, the hearing officer at the district court, said she believed Gilmore’s conviction had “no impact” on his reputation in the community.
“I think everyone thinks of Arthur the same as they always have,” Sullivan said.
Lee, the city court judge, said she did not believe Gilmore’s conviction would deter any member of the public from retaining his services as an attorney.
“No, not at all,” Lee said.
Dr. Fredrick Adams, an associate professor of world languages at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, also testified about Gilmore’s character. Adams said he had not heard anyone who disputed Gilmore’s integrity.
“It stands today,” Adams said. “I haven’t encountered anyone who would say anything contrary.”