Sacto 9-1-1
November 3, 2009
Sacramento divorce lawyer sentenced for fondling clients

appleblatt[1].JPGFrom Andy Furillo

A judge today sentenced long-time Sacramento divorce lawyer Gary Appelblatt, see photo, to state prison for 18 months for fondling four of his clients.

The term came as a result of a plea bargain worked out for Appelblatt by his attorney, Tom Johnson, with Deputy District Attorney Keith Hill.

Johnson and Appelblatt today asked Superior Court Judge Gary E. Ransom to instead sentence the disgraced attorney to probation. The judge denied the request. Ransom also rejected an appeal by Appelblatt to delay his remand into custody so he could get his affairs in order.

"No, sir," Ransom said. "This is not a pop quiz. You've been here before."

Three of Appelblatt's victims told the court about their encounters with Appelblatt and how he touched them inappropriately under the guise of giving them a medical exam when they were confiding with him about their problem marriages.

One of the victims said she was suffering from bipolar disorder and that Appelblatt took advantage of her "when I was most weak and most vulnerable."

"You robbed me of my dignity and my self-worth," the woman told Appelblatt.

Another told Appelblatt that "I trusted you" and that he "took full advantage" of her." She said she felt "shamed, disrespected and humiliated" by him.

Appelblatt read a statement in court in which he apologized to the victims. He said he had taken on military clients and had done "significant pro bono work" in family law. He said he's donated his time and money to assorted community causes.

"I've lost my livelihood which I have loved for the last 20 years and (am) facing loss of my freedom," Appelblatt said to Ransom.

"This is a tremendous impact on a (58)-year-old man. I pled nolo contendre, as no victim should have to be put through the trauma that a trial would only bring. I am only requesting mercy from this court. I have done wrong, I admitted it."

Johnson, his attorney, characterized Appelblatt as "humiliated as a person and as an attorney." He asked the judge to "reach out and say we'll give you one more shot."

"He stands before you a broken man," Johnson said to the judge.

Prosecutor Hill asked Ransom to stick with the terms of the plea agreement and hit the defendant who was "in a position of trust and confidence" with the prison term.

"It was a complete legal and moral breakdown on his part," Hill said. "This is something he did for years. Something he did over and over and over, to victim after victim after victim."

Appelblatt had been charged on a 13-count complaint, but pleaded no contest Aug. 17 to four felony counts of sexual battery and one count of attempting to touch one of his clients improperly.

At his sentencing today, Judge Ransom also ordered Appelblatt to pay $4,500 in restitution to two of his clients."

He also told Appelblatt he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life once he gets out of prison.

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