A Denver District Court judge sentenced disbarred attorney Steve Bachar to three years in prison Monday, handing down a heavier sentence than even prosecutors sought in the felony theft case.
Bachar pleaded guilty in September to felony theft for defrauding an investor of $125,000. In a deal with the Denver District Attorney’s Office, prosecutors agreed to drop two other felony counts against him in exchange for his guilty plea.
He asked for mercy in court Monday and said he was a changed man. His public defender, Robert Swestka, asked that Bachar be sentenced to probation, while prosecutor Ashley Beck sought two years in prison.
Denver District Court Judge Eric Johnson found that three years in prison was the more fitting punishment. He noted Bachar owes about $180,000 in restitution in the case, which includes interest on the original stolen investment.
“How many home invasion burglaries do you have to take to get to $180,000?” Johnson said in court. “…How many stolen cars does it take to get to $180,000? And yet day after day I am asked to put into prison people who are selling four fentanyl pills or stealing automobiles. And I’m not saying that’s wrong, but it helps put into perspective the job here.”
The judge said he wanted to push back against the criminal justice system’s tendency to be more lenient on wealthy, well-connected and well-educated defendants, particularly in cases of white-collar and financial crimes.
“One of the major challenges for our criminal justice system, and our society, in my view, is the existence of two classes of individuals: those who are subject to our laws but not protected by them. And those who are protected by our laws and not subject to them,” he said. “…And at least in this courtroom, I am not going to have people who are protected by laws but not subject to them.”
Bachar was handcuffed and taken into custody at the end of Monday’s sentencing hearing, the second such hearing scheduled in the case — the disbarred attorney had a year ago agreed to a plea deal in which he could have served only probation, but Johnson threw that agreement out in March on the grounds it was too lenient after Bachar skipped his original sentencing hearing.
The man Bachar stole from, Jamie Lindsay, said in court Monday that Bachar is an “unrepentant liar, thief and fraudster.”
“His clear intent is to limit his punishment so he can keep defrauding people without end,” Lindsay said. “He cannot and will not stop his lies and fraud… I will never be able to repair the damage he has done to my life in what was supposed to be my golden years in retirement.”
Bachar, reading from a handwritten statement, apologized to Lindsay and said he is going to a therapist to address the “underlying issues” that led to his behavior, mentioning a “horrible” childhood and “some things with my mother.” He and his attorney argued that he should be sentenced to probation so he could keep working and earning money to pay the case’s restitution.
“I’ll admit I began with defiance or denial,” Bachar said of the court process. “Maybe in part because I didn’t understand the gravity of what I’d done. I didn’t understand that I was even capable of abusing his trust and friendship in that way. It’s not consistent with how I’ve lived most of my life… All in all, the past two-plus years have been an awakening for me. I deeply regret what I did to be here.”
Bachar noted that the original plea deal, which Johnson rejected, likely would have allowed him to avoid both a felony conviction and time in prison.
“I won’t claim not to have preferred that,” he said. “But in the end, it’s probably better I carry this felony with me forever. I think it’s part of an appropriate retribution, justice. But it’s also part of a healing process for Jamie and for me.”
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