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Phoenix Criminal-Defense Attorney Robbed at Gunpoint Says He'll Fight for Robbers

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Phoenix criminal-defense attorney Dwane Cates was robbed at gunpoint inside his office last month.

Cates says if the men are caught, he'll fight for a "second chance" for those robbers and ask that they be placed on probation if it's their first offense.

A colleague of ours forwarded Cates' version of events, which Cates posted on his website and has allowed us to re-publish here.

Cates goes into detail about getting the gun in his face and then reflects on his job, saying he'd be a hypocrite if he didn't want to treat these robbers the same way he'd treat his clients.

We asked Cates whether he thought this was a former client looking to rob him.

Cates replied, "It was not a former client, maybe a future one."

Read his story below:

I have been a criminal defense lawyer for over 18 years. I dedicated my life to defending people who are charged with crimes. I believe that I am very good at what I do.

I have had a lot of life experiences, but up until three weeks ago I had no experience of being the victim of a gun crime. It was an ordinary Saturday and I had appointments in my office. This was not unusual as I worked most Saturdays. The alarm system had a low battery and it would beep every minute or so, sounding just like the door chime when someone comes into the office. I tried to shut it off, but could not figure out how.

I had just finished signing up a new client and was sitting at my desk inputting the data in the computer for my staff. I had my back to the door of my office and the front door of the office was left unlocked. I heard the door chime, but thought that it was just the low battery chime. Before I could do anything a man rushed into my office and put a gun in my face. Another man followed close behind. He said, "give me the cash." I told him that I did not have any cash that I only took credit cards. He insisted that I had cash. He started going through my drawers of my desk. Finally they found the cash that I kept as emergency bond money for clients. They took the money and tied me up with the telephone cord. They rushed out of the office taking my cell phone with them. I called 911 and the police were there quickly. From my perspective they did a good job processing the crime scene.

I do not consider myself an easy target for crime. I usually pay attention to my surroundings and have good situational awareness. But in this case I made some mistakes. Being in my office alone, I should have locked the front door. That would have made a big difference. I was not scared at any time, I was angry that I had made myself such an easy target.

After this event I thought about and have been asked about what I do for a living. I represent some people who have done some pretty horrific things. Much worse that what was done to me. Many people have asked if this experience changed my thinking or approach to what I do. The answer is no. I am asked all the time how I can represent such horrible people. The answer is they are not horrible people, they may have done some horrible things, but they are not horrible people.

The criminal defense attorney is the only thing standing between the police and the citizens. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I double check the work of the police to make sure that they are not violating the rights of the citizens. If the police do their work correctly, the people usually get convicted of something. When a criminal gets off on a technicality, do not blame the defense attorney, blame the police officer who did not do their job correctly. All the defense attorney did was call attention to the fact that they violated someone's constitutional rights.

I like to describe what I do this way. I have dozens of clients tied to railroad tracks. In each case there is a train (the government) coming at them. My job is to try and get them off the tracks, or slow the train down, or divert the train to another track. In many cases all I can do is sit with them and hold their hand while the train runs over them. In some cases this is a tragedy. Sometimes innocent people get run over (railroaded). In some cases the police violate their rights and I get them off the tracks even though the train should have hit them. In some cases they only get nipped by the train. But every day I face the train and I work to get my clients out of harms way, and it never ends.

People ask me if I am upset that two men robbed me. The answer is not at them, I am upset at myself for allowing it to happen. If and when the men get caught my hope is that the officers that arrest them treat them with dignity and respect and afford them all their constitutional rights. If I wished anything less I would be a hypocrite.

If and when they get caught, I will advocate for them (in the role of victim not as counsel) as I do all criminal clients. I will ask that they be placed on probation, if it is their first offense. I will ask that they be given drug and or alcohol treatment, if they have a problem. I want them to be rehabilitated not punished. Punishing them will make them harder and push them further into a life of crime. I have seen this personally in my work. If I asked for anything less, how could I ever again stand before the court in other cases and argue for these things. I have taken this position in my life's work and I will take that position now. Not because I have to, but because I believe in the goodness of my fellow man and I believe that everyone deserves a second chance.

I have been clean and sober for over 23 years. I am active in recovery. I was given a second chance. Now I fight for second chances for my clients and I will fight for a second chance for the men who robbed me. If the men who robbed me read this, please call me and I will turn you into the police and make sure that you are treated fairly. While I can not represent you, I will fight as the victim for your second chance.

Dwane Cates

Cates recently earned a pretty big victory as one of his clients, former Orange County, California, attorney Robert Fischer, was released from jail earlier this year after his murder conviction was overturned.

Fischer was accused of killing the husband of his stepdaughter in Queen Creek back in 2010. Although police initially believed it was a suicide, Fischer was arrested on the murder charge in 2012. Fischer's still likely to be re-tried in the case.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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