A&O partner faces child porn charges in US

US federal prosecutors have charged Allen & Overy (A&O) capital markets partner Edward De Sear with distributing child pornography, writes The Am Law Daily.

De Sear, 65, a resident of Saddle River, New Jersey, appeared before US magistrate judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark on Thursday (14 July).

He was released on $250,000 (£157,000) bond and ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device, according to a press release from the US attorney’s office in Newark.

De Sear is charged with one count of distribution of child pornography for allegedly downloading and distributing videos and other images going back to 16 September of last year, according to a statement by federal prosecutors.

The US Government’s four-page criminal complaint states that federal investigators downloaded the images from a computer hard drive belonging to De Sear.

One of De Sear’s lawyers, Michael Critchley of Critchely Kinum & Vazquez, declined to comment. De Sear is also represented by John Vazquez of the same firm.

An A&O spokeswoman said in a statement that the law firm had just become aware of the charges against De Sear and was conducting an internal review of the matter.

A firm spokesman today (15 July) added: “Everyone has been shocked and appalled by the news that a lawyer in our New York office, Edward de Sear, has been criminally charged by federal prosecutors in Newark, New Jersey, after being arrested at his home. He has resigned from the firm. This is now subject to a federal investigation so we cannot make any further comment.”

De Sear joined A&O’s New York office last August from Bingham McCutchen. He became a member of that firm after its merger with McKee Nelson in June 2009.

The case against De Sear is being prosecuted by Shirley Emehelu, a former Debevoise & Plimpton associate and current assistant US attorney with the general crimes unit in Newark. If convicted of the charges, De Sear faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

De Sear is the third lawyer from a major legal practice in the US to run into problems with child pornography in recent months. In June former Gibson Dunn & Crutcher associate Moshe Gerstein was one of a number of people charged in a sweeping child porn sting conducted by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Gerstein was found dead in Mexico later that month.

Former Arnold & Porter lawyer Joshua Gessler lost his law license last month after he was charged in August 2010 with possessing and producing child pornography. Gessler pleaded guilty in March to six sexual offenses involving a 15-year-old girl, according to news reports.

The Am Law Daily is a US affiliate title of Legal Week.