NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A former Orleans public defender expresses remorse in court as she learns her fate.
Ashley Crawford was sentenced and fined Friday after being caught practicing law for nearly eight months without a license.
Crawford told ad hoc judge Jerome Winsberg, “I sincerely apologize for all those affected by my actions”. The Loyola law graduate went on to say, “I wanted nothing more than to be a public defender and fight on the front lines. I made a horrible decision.”
"Miss Crawford doesn’t have any additional comments she spoke extensively in court," said her attorney Billy Sothern, as he crossed Broad St.
Crawford was removed from the Orleans Parish Public Defenders office and arrested four months ago when it was discovered she had been practicing law, representing indigent defendants, for nearly eight months without a license. She pleaded guilty to four counts: Admitting that she knowingly received compensation acting as a lawyer. Count 2: That she altered her law certificate...3. That she certified she was a lawyer in good standing...and Count 4: That she held herself out to practice law, even though unlicensed.
“Our focus today was to seek justice, and we believe the conviction today did that,” said assistant attorney general Marty White.
In court Judge Jerome Winsberg said the entire affair is a tragic situation and that’s a shame because he heard Crawford was a good lawyer.
"She was someone who would’ve been excellent we have no problem with it since we don’t think jail would’ve done any good in this case," said Crawford's former boss, and chief public defender, Derwyn Bunton.
Bunton says he's not aware of any cases being overturned, as a result of his former employee's actions. He says they are now being more careful about checking lawyer credentials.
"The lesson now is even when you get the documents, we will have to be careful to verify the documents from now on," said Bunton.
The judge today said it's not likely that Crawford, will ever practice law, due to her conviction.
Under the plea deal, Crawford must repay the Orleans Public Defender’s office more than $43,200. Many of her former law school colleagues and friends, attended Friday’s hearing.