Infamous Sweetwater Attorney Disbarred 3 Years After Lying to a Grand Jury
Feb 14, 2020
SAN ANGELO, TX – A Sweetwater attorney who was an unindicted co-conspirator with John Young and Ray Zapata in the forgery, theft and money laundering trial over the forged will of John Sullivan in 2017 has been disbarred by the State Bar of Texas.
According to court documents, Christianson O. (Chris) Hartman appeared before a District 16 grievance committee on Feb. 3, 2020.
In a list of findings of fact, the evidentiary panel included the following findings of fact concerning Hartman as the respondent:
- Respondent knowingly made a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal.
- Respondent committed a serious crime or criminal act.
- Respondent engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
- Respondent knowingly failed to disclose a fact to a tribunal when disclosure was necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act.
As we reported during John Young’s trial in Oct. 2017, Hartman admitted on the stand that he lied to a grand jury. “I did.” Sweetwater attorney Chris Hartman testified in the John Young theft, forgery and money laundering trial that he misled the first Grand Jury and deceived Texas Ranger Nick Hanna in his recorded interview by not telling them about a $65,312.50 check he wrote to Ray Zapata. “I knew I perjured myself before the first grand jury.”
Hartman was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony in that trial.
Prosecuting attorney Shane Attaway said, “You kept the money and didn’t say anything about getting the $65,312.50 back.” Hartman had testified that he received a check from John Young for $167,500 in legal fees for work on the Sullivan probate and estate.
Hartman then wrote a check for $65,312.50 and left it blank. Ray Zapata picked up the check and delivered it to Dallas attorney Juan Marquez who deposited it into an Interest On Trust Lawyers Account (IOLTA) which Marquez then gave to Zapata.
Earlier testimony said Zapata wrote checks out of the IOLTA account for approximately $60,000.
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The evidentiary panel ordered Hartman to pay court costs and attorney fees in the amount of $15,100 in addition to surrendering his law license.
Hartman was also ordered to immediately notify his clients in writing of his disbarment and to return files and funds to his clients.
He was additionally ordered to pay another $10,000 if he was going to appeal the judgment.
John Young was found guilty of forgery theft and money laundering in the month long trial in Oct. 2017.
Young was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Reports indicate Young is currently out of prison.
Ray Zapata was found guilty by a Tom Green County jury in June 2017. He was sentenced to six months in prison.
Verdict! Thievin’ Lawyer John Young is Guilty Times Four
Originally Published: Nov 6, 2017
SAN ANGELO, TX — John Stacy Young hung his head and covered his eyes with his hand Monday morning and defense attorney Dan Hurley hugged him as Senior Judge Brock Jones read the jury’s verdict; guilty on all four counts.
Young was facing two counts of forgery, one count of theft and one count of money laundering in connection with the estate of John Sullivan.
Young was Sullivan’s criminal defense attorney for Sullivan when he was facing online solicitation of a minor and possession of child pornography. Sullivan died in his Santa Rita home in San Angelo in 2014 before the case went to trial.
A day after Sullivan was found dead, bail bondsman Ray Zapata came up with a handwritten will in the back of a prayer book that left Sullivan’s $8 million estate to Young.
Judge Jones questioned each of the twelve jurors by name. He asked, “Does the verdict in the verdict sheets reflect your verdict in the case?” Each juror answered, “Yes, your honor.”
Jones then explained that this is a bifurcated trial meaning that the first part of the trial was determining guilt or innocence and the second part of the trial is the punishment phase.
Once the jury was retired, Young turned and hugged his wife who seemed deflated and shocked by the guilty verdict.
Prosecuting attorneys Jonathan White and Shane Attaway told the judge they would be ready to present their case Monday afternoon and anticipated closing their case Tuesday morning.
Defense attorneys Frank Sellers and Dan Hurley told judge Jones they had to call witnesses from out of town and would be ready to present their case after the prosecution rests.
Young faces two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 on each of the four felony counts because the victim was elderly. The jury can also determine restitution. Testimony showed that there was $1.8 million not recovered from the estate while it was in Young’s possession.
Judge Jones set restitution to the estate at $1.8 million following Ray Zapata’s trial where he was found guilty of forging the will.
Zapata was sentenced to six months in prison and five years probation and ordered to pay his portion of the $1.8 million.
Testimony resumes at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the Tom Green County courthouse, The trial will be moved from courtroom A on the second floor of the courthouse to courtroom D on the first floor because the court needs the larger courtroom for pretrial hearings Tuesday morning.
SAN ANGELO, TX — After 18 days of testimony, the jury in John Young’s forgery, theft and money laundering trial sentenced him to 11 years in prison and $40,000 in fines. Judge Brock Jones will set restitution at a later date.
Young’s daughter burst into tears as Judge Jones read the verdict. His wife sobbed, “I can’t stand up.” She was sitting behind Young in the courtroom. Young stood with his attorney Frank Sellers, who had his arm around Young.
Young didn’t cry in court today until he hugged his son just before they left the courtroom.
The jury was instructed that because the theft charge was a state jail felony punishable by 5 to 99 years or life in prison they would have to sentence him to more than ten years or he would be out on appeal today. The 11 year sentence means he will be jailed until his appeal is heard in court.
The jury sentenced Young to 24 months for the first count of forgery with a $10,000 fine, 24 months on the second forgery count with a $10,000 fine, 11 years on the theft count with a $10,000 fine, and 11 years on the money laundering count with a $10,000 fine. Each fine was the maximum. The sentences run concurrently.
Young left out the back of the courthouse in custody while his wife, children, family members and attorneys left out the front door. Young was taken across the street to the Tom Green County Jail to begin his sentence.