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Charges tossed amid claims of prosecutor misconduct

After defense lawyers argued prosecutors unfairly influenced a grand jury, a Fauquier County judge dismissed seven felony charges against a former attorney accused of misappropriating client money.

Prosecutors then withdrew two felony charges of making false statements on tax returns.

The action Aug. 18 left no charges pending in Fauquier County against former lawyer Lorenzo L. Bean III of Sumerduck.

While Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher said this month he was in no hurry to attempt to refile charges in Fauquier County, Bean was charged in July with a single count of embezzlement in Loudoun County.

Bean, 62, practiced in both Fauquier and Loudoun County offices before he agreed to disbarment in March.

In Fauquier County, Bean was accused of accepting checks totaling more than $140,000 from an elderly, illiterate client for billable work of only $65,000, according to published reports based on a police affidavit.

But a State Police detective and a county prosecutor presented misleading information about the case to the grand jury that indicted Bean, according to a motion filed by Bean’s attorneys.

The detective’s testimony was “rife with misrepresentations,” wrote Thomas K. Plofchan Jr. in an Aug. 13 motion to have the criminal charges dismissed.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey E. Cook failed to correct the detective’s misstatements and made argumentative comments to the grand jury, Plofchan continued.

A key misstatement, according to Plofchan’s account, was a suggestion that Bean had agreed that he would bill his client only about $900 a month. Bean’s agreement with the contract had no such language, and at least one grand juror made calculations based on that erroneous monthly figure, Plofchan said.

Plofchan also accused Cook – the prosecutor – of “injecting her own argumentative testimony” into questions she posed to the detective.

Special grand jury

Plofchan accused prosecutors of improperly using a special grand jury to continue the state’s investigation of charges already filed.

Special grand juries, with broader investigative powers than a regular grand jury, are normally used for extensive criminal investigations.

Plofchan said Bean’s former bookkeeper testified to a special grand jury in April, months after Bean was indicted. Plofchan alleged the use of the special grand jury allowed authorities both to continue the Bean investigation without notice to Bean’s lawyers and to provide immunity to the bookkeeper.

Bean has sued the former bookkeeper in what is listed on court records as a “contract action.”

The special grand jury process “allows the Commonwealth to operate in secret and has denied the Defendant and others the opportunity to move to quash subpoenas because documents were obtained without notice to the Defendant or others,” Plofchan wrote.

Plofchan accused Fisher – the commonwealth’s attorney – of pulling an “end run” around criminal procedure law by acting as special counsel to the special grand jury.

Plofchan also objected to subpoenas for bank records requested and issued without notice to Bean or his lawyers.

After a hearing on Plofchan’s motion, retired Circuit Judge David H. Beck on Aug. 18 dismissed six charges of embezzlement and a single count of money laundering against Bean.

“We are not in a rush to reissue charges, and I am reviewing the case from beginning to end to see what the best course of action is at this point,” Fisher said on Sept. 1.

No new proceedings against Bean were shown on court records as of Sept. 9.

Fisher defended his office’s handling of the case in published reports.

Bean filed his contract lawsuit against his former bookkeeper in Loudoun County in May. A judge has put a hold on that case at the request of Fisher’s office, Plofchan said.

The bookkeeper is represented by Leesburg attorney William R. Fitzpatrick, who did not return a call for comment.

Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney James E. Plowman said he could not provide any substantive information about the embezzlement charge against Bean in that county. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Sept. 25.

The date of the alleged offense in the Loudoun criminal case aligns with allegations in a Virginia State Bar complaint against Bean. In a March affidavit consenting to license revocation, Bean, 62, acknowledged withdrawing client money from his trust account “for an unauthorized use.”

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