Friday, April 11, 2003

Dlott-Chesley tie isn't seen as conflict in case


Erpenbeck judge married to homeowners' lawyer

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Bill Erpenbeck's criminal case has landed in the courtroom of a federal judge whose husband is familiar with the Erpenbeck scandal.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott, who will sentence Erpenbeck, is married to Cincinnati lawyer Stan Chesley. Last year he won a multimillion-dollar class action settlement from a Kentucky bank linked to the Erpenbeck scandal.

Despite that connection, no one involved in Erpenbeck's case is worried about a potential conflict of interest involving the judge.

"I've got no concerns about her," said Glenn Whitaker, Erpenbeck's lawyer. "We don't see a conflict," said Fred Alverson, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Federal rules bar judges from taking cases in which a spouse "could be substantially affected by the outcome." But that rule would not seem to apply in this case, since Chesley's lawsuit was resolved last year with a $17.3 million settlement.

Chesley won the settlement on behalf of homeowners who had accused Erpenbeck's company of diverting millions of dollars in checks cut at home closings into company accounts at People's Bank of Northern Kentucky.

"The only concern would be if there's some reason for the judge to treat Erpenbeck more harshly or more leniently because of (the Chesley case)," said Jack Chin, a University of Cincinnati law professor.

"Under the circumstances, it doesn't seem to me there's a conflict."

Erpenbeck faces up to 30 years in prison.

E-mail dhorn@enquirer.com



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