By Paul Rubin
A Maricopa County jury a few hours ago convicted onetime Phoenix divorce "mediator" Gary Karpin of 24 felony counts.
The 57-year-old Gilbert man is facing a sentence that probably will keep him behind bars until he is a geriatric. He will remain locked up inside the Maricopa County Jail until his sentencing, scheduled for next month. Karpin--who represented himself at the weeks-long trial--was convicted of 23 theft counts and one count of fraud.
The stories led to an investigation in 2005 by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which to its credit took the allegations of dozens of Karpin's victims seriously (unlike the Arizona Attorney General's Office, which shined off the victims as undeserving of consideration).
Sheriff's deputies handcuffed Karpin in Judge Warren Granville's packed courtroom immediately after the verdict. The many victims gathered broke into applause.
Deputy County Attorney AnnieLaurie Van Wie--probably the top white-collar prosecutor in the office--was exhilirated after the verdict, hugging victims and looking relieved after a two-day jury deliberation.
One of those victims was Mesa's Bill Ludlow, the first to do his own thorough investigation of Karpin, after he had used the fast-talking ex-lawyer as a "mediator" in what turned out to be something of an emotional and financial nightmare.
"Elation is a good word," Ludlow said right after the conviction. "It's been eight years since this all started. I still have the letter from the Attorney General telling me they needed to see a pattern of misconduct. Give me a break!"
Several victims walked across the street to the County Attorney's Office, where Andrew Thomas held a well-attended press conference. Thomas said all the right things, including, "This guy was a very bad dude."
One by one, the victims stepped up to the lectern, told their stories and thanked everyone involved in the investigation, arrest and conviction.
One of the victims, Gina Niedzwiecki--who paid Karpin almost $90,000 in "legal" fees to complete a divorce that she probably could have done herself--especially lauded Fran Johansen (formerly of the State Bar of Arizona), prosecutor Van Wie and her associate Thomas Marquoit, county attorney's investigator Michael Leavene, Andrew Thomas and New Times.
It had to be a first. Thomas and New Times thanked in the same breath.
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I couldn't help but remember what Karpin had told me after his indictment a few years ago: "After I walk out of court a free man, I'm going to own your car, your wife and your dog."
"In that order?" I'd asked him.
It didn't turn out that way for Dr. Buzzard.