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Class action king Weiss sentenced to 30 months

2/06/2008 - 20:00

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Melvyn Weiss, whose New York law firm dominated U.S. class action litigation for nearly three decades, was sentenced on Monday to 30 months in federal prison after admitting to paying secret kickbacks to clients.

Weiss, 72, also agreed to pay $10 million in fines and forfeiture under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Los Angeles. Weiss pleaded guilty to a single racketeering charge in March.

The sentence was less than the 33 months requested by prosecutors and more than the 24 maximum sought by Weiss, who made his reputation by winning billions of dollars on behalf of shareholders of some of the largest U.S. corporations.

U.S. District Judge John Walter said he had "serious reservations" about the plea deal reached by prosecutors and Weiss's lawyers, which called for prison time of 18 to 33 months.

"I know I have to be just to Mr. Weiss, but justice is owed to society," Walter said.

Weiss's lawyer Benjamin Brafman said afterward that he was pleased the sentence was less than the maximum requested by prosecutors.

"Mr. Weiss will do his sentence and survive... and will go on to do great things with his life," he said.

Weiss also will face three years of supervised release following his departure from prison.

(Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Brian Moss)


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