Former Winston & Strawn LLP ex-partner Jonathan Bristol was sentenced to time served for helping launder almost $19 million in financial adviser Kenneth I. Starr’s investment fraud.
Bristol, 57, had faced as long as 87 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, which are advisory, after pleading guilty last year to a charge of conspiracy to launder money.
Bristol admitted he’d conspired with Starr to defraud customers out of more than $18.8 million by accepting money Starr transferred into two escrow accounts he controlled, then wiring the funds out to Starr for his personal benefit.
“A non-guidelines sentence is appropriate,” U.S. District Judge Debora Batts said. “More than one defendant has contributed” to the crime, Batts said, adding “the court may apportion liability.”
Batts also ordered Bristol to forfeit $18.8 million jointly with Starr. She said that Starr, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison, was ordered to forfeit $30.1 million in May 2011 by the federal judge who was presiding over his criminal case.
Before he was sentenced today, Bristol said he’d wanted Starr’s approval and been swayed by the glamour of Starr’s celebrity clients he said included photographer Annie Leibovitz, actress Lauren Bacall and film director and writer Norah Ephron.
“The glamour appealed to me,” Bristol told the judge. “I wanted someone to pat me on the head, pat me on the back,” he said. “Ken Starr did that for me.”
Starr, the New York money manager whose clients also included actors Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes, was sentenced after pleading guilty to defrauding nine celebrities out of $33.3 million.
Bristol admitted that he allowed Starr to wire funds in and out of his escrow account, knowing that the funds were proceeds of Starr’s fraud, prosecutors in the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
“I’m sorry about the events that have occurred,” Bristol said in court before sentencing. “I was wrong. I know I was wrong and I’m sorry to the victims. ‘‘A lot of this comes from my choosing a bad client. There was a lot of razzmatazz, a lot of celebrity.’’
His lawyer, Susan Kellman, described her client in court as a self-made man who left home as a teenager and attended Amherst College and University of Virginia Law School before becoming a partner at Winston & Strawn. She said he suffers from depression.
‘‘He was a man who had nothing, built up everything and lost everything,’’ she said. ‘‘There is virtually no other punishment than the pain he has already caused himself from his excruciatingly bad judgment,’’ Kellman said.
Kellman said that Bristol has also surrendered his license to practice law in both New Jersey and New York.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bosworth said the funds in Bristol’s escrow accounts were then wired to Starr for his own personal use, including Starr’s purchase of a $7.5 million luxury condominium in Manhattan’s Upper East Side and a legal settlement.
The case is U.S. v. Bristol, 10-CR-1239, Southern District of New York, (Manhattan).