A story about the sentencing of San Ramon divorce attorney Mary Nolan incorrectly reported information about the conviction of former Danville police Officer Stephen Tanabe. Tanabe was convicted of receiving a gun, not cocaine, in exchange for setting up DUI targets.
A former San Ramon family law attorney was sentenced to two years in prison Monday for evading taxes and illegally eavesdropping on a client's estranged spouse with the help of a now-incarcerated private investigator who set up divorcing men for drunken-driving arrests.
Mary Nolan, 62, of Oakland, already relinquished her law license and paid $469,000 in back taxes Sept. 27 after she pleaded guilty to four counts of tax evasion and one count of illegal eavesdropping.
Prosecutors wanted her to serve 33 months in prison, saying she hired ex-Concord private investigator Christopher Butler to bug the cars of people she was opposing in divorce and child custody cases, and hiding $1.8 million in income from the Internal Revenue Service between 2005 and 2008. Nolan pleaded guilty to one count of eavesdropping that did not involve a DUI arrest.
"This is not a run of the mill tax case. The defendant is an attorney who evaded taxes by brazenly declaring negative taxable income for four years, when her true net worth was approximately $3 million," prosecutor Hartley West wrote in a sentencing memorandum. "Moreover, this defendant is an attorney who orchestrated the installation of unlawful listening devices in her clients' spouses' cars for the purpose of obtaining information to use in her clients' divorce proceedings, and lied about it to boot."
Nolan was just one character in the "dirty DUI" scandal that implicated current and former East Bay police officers in a scheme where the estranged spouses of Nolan's clients were set up for DUI arrests that could then be used as leverage in family court.
Nolan represented the ex-wives of two men who were arrested after Butler's attractive female employees lured them into drinking and driving. Those convictions were expunged after the scheme became known in 2011, when Butler and jailed former Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team Commander Norman Wielsch were caught selling drug evidence and admitted to pimping and robbery, among other crimes.
"I thought she should have got more for all the pain she caused," said Declan Woods, a Clayton contractor whose ex-wife hired Nolan during their divorce. "She got caught, and justice was served, and now hopefully everyone can move on."
Nolan paid $1,500 for Butler to track Woods, Butler told investigators. After a ruse in 2007 involving Butler's colleague, Woods was pulled over and arrested for a DUI.
Nolan is a defendant in two of the half-dozen civil lawsuits lodged by targets of Butler's "dirty DUIs."
"I was set up for a DUI, and it's cost me a fortune," said Woods, who sued Nolan in 2012. "Plus, there's the embarrassment of getting a DUI."
Judge Charles Breyer decided to sentence Nolan, who had a clean criminal history, to almost a year less than what prosecutors sought.
In court documents, Nolan explained for the first time her motivations.
"Regarding my offenses, I know that I lost my way and made terrible decisions," Nolan wrote. " ... I know that I should never have been involved in the eavesdropping. I rationalized that it was a way of helping my client and that I got carried away in my zeal. But that sounds ridiculous even as I write it."
A doctor for Nolan said in court documents she suffered from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder due to losing her grandparents at a young age and her parents while in college. She spent much of her adult life "sabotaging" her relationships often by having an affair, her attorney Ted Cassman wrote.
According to court records, Nolan sold her house to pay her tax debt.
"The forced sale of Ms. Nolan's home and her resignation from the Bar were difficult pills to swallow. She loved them both very much," Cassman wrote. "Her career and life are in tatters."
Former Danville police officer Stephen Tanabe is the final "dirty DUI" figure to be sentenced Feb. 19. He was convicted of receiving a gun from Butler in exchange for setting up targets in Danville.
Butler testified against Tanabe and would have taken the stand against Nolan too, had she gone to trial.
Butler received eight years, and Wielsch got 14 years for their roles in the scheme.
Staff writer Malaika Fraley contributed to this report. Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.