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Lawyers fail to show for guilty plea

A federal judge is threatening to hold two Richmond attorneys in contempt after neither showed for a plea agreement hearing Wednesday in a cigarette trafficking case.

David Paul Morgan and J. Thompson Cravens entered an appearance in the case on behalf of defendant Jayant Khare in December, according to court records.

Neither Morgan nor Cravens was in the courtroom Wednesday when U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson planned to hear about plea deals with the government for both Khare and his wife. The couple shared ownership of two tobacco stores where, according to prosecutors, they stockpiled cartons of cigarettes that were transported out of state.

The wife’s attorney was at the plea hearing – she pleaded guilty to structuring bank deposits to conceal her involvement in illegal cigarette trafficking, the Associated Press reported.

Khare’s hearing was postponed to April 29. Hudson said he would order Morgan and Cravens to appear in court to explain why they should not be held in contempt.

“I have no problem with you, and this won’t be held against you, but I am very disturbed with your lawyer,” Hudson told Khare.

While Hudson was handling the wife’s plea, court officials contacted Morgan’s office and were told that the attorney was in a trial in Norfolk, had never been retained to represent Jayant Khare and knew nothing about the plea agreement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dominick Gerace disputed that information and the wife’s attorney said he was told Cravens would attend the plea hearing.

The defense attorneys did not immediately return a voicemail message left by The Associated Press after Wednesday’s hearing. Morgan did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Thursday morning.

Although the court papers say the Khares were believed to be involved in contraband cigarette trafficking, the government agreed not to prosecute them for any related offenses in exchange for their guilty pleas to the illegal structuring charge.

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