Life imitates art? Lawyer who tried to copy "Breaking Bad" is sentenced by 6th Circuit

For "Breaking Bad" (and "Better Call Saul"!) fans, you might wonder whether some of what is suggested there might "work."  It doesn't - check out this story.



Comments

  1. It's unfortunate that the attorney thought it would be a good idea to copy a fictional TV series when he came across hard times. This makes me feel like there is not enough support within the legal professions for attorneys to consult with when they are in financial despair. The preamble of the ABA model rules states that a lawyer's conduct should conform to the requirements of the law. Even though most lawyers' conduct do conform with the law, sometimes they are faced with financial problems such as the attorney in this article. There should be on-going CLE's for attorneys to prevent getting into that situation, and what to do if they find themselves in that situation so that they do not have to resort to money laundering or other alternatives. - K.S.

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  2. When viewing television programs like Breaking Bad you would generally assume that it would be a clear depiction as to what not to do. It should also be noted that things rarely go well for the criminal characters on these types of shows so their common failure to pull off such grand criminal schemes should be a fair warning as well. Unfortunately, it is obvious that this attorney faced such level of desperation that he found himself taking advice from a fictional criminal. Taking a class like Professional Responsibility, as well as the MPRE are vital to setting the foundation of the ethical practice of the law, however, it is important that practicing attorneys take this information seriously throughout their careers, especially in the midst of a situation as this attorney found himself. - Bria Miles

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  4. It is kind of shocking to me that lines such as reality and fiction can be so easily confused, even in the legal profession. People watch lawyers, judges, etc on television and think that this is what they do in practice and real life. When in reality it is not like that at all. The show Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman, is basically a walking billboard of "what not to do as a lawyer" but the crazy antics and schemes that he comes up with to help his clients win so he can collect the money. However, these schemes are unethical in the practice of law and can get you into trouble just as it did to Matthew in Cleveland. But having a course to teach lawyers which lines cannot be crossed in the course of the profession and keeping lawyers accountable for knowing these lines are important, not only to the client but to the profession as a whole. This class is a step for us in the right direction on how to learn these lines. - Alexis Ojinaga

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  5. While one would believe that the line between a fictional tv character and reality is drawn, one would not have to look further than to examples such as the attorney in this case. Desperate for money, this attorney looked through the tv at an unethical attorney and emulated his actions, essentially throwing away the ethics of his profession in the field of law as well as his common sense. It is cases such as the example in this article that highlight the importance for Professional Responsibility. The rules are there so that attorneys can best conduct themselves in align with the immense power that those in the legal field have. The law is a field of gray, full of legal strategies and discussions as to which way the law will go. In combination with the power of an attorney, the legal field may seem daunting, with some cracking under pressure and some resorting to behavior that dives into the deep end of illicit and unethical activity. The guidelines and Professional Responsibility are there to shape stable ethical attorneys that fulfill the obligation to their clients in a proper and responsible way.- Drew Walleck

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  7. I watched Breaking Bad before entering law school and even at that point I knew that Saul Goodman, the lawyer in the show, was not the best example of a law-abiding attorney. While taking a class like Professional Responsibility is important to learn the nuances, I think that part of Professional Responsibility is common sense. I would say that most viewers of Breaking Bad were able to see that Saul Goodman was breaking some sort of law by helping Walter White launder money. The root of the issue goes beyond knowing the law, the real issue is personal. Matthew King fell on hard times and he offered to do what he knows best for illegal purposes. Like many others have said, this article sheds light on some of the issues lawyers face, such as financial hardships or even substance abuse. Lawyers face a lot of pressure and it is a profession that requires a lot of support. Hopefully stories like this one will prompt the ABA or other legal organizations to address the root of the issue, which goes beyond abiding rules of professional conduct. - Lorena Quezada

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  8. The thought that a professional lawyer would take something they watched on TV, and attempt to mimic the scheme, is hard to comprehend. I have entered the legal profession to attempt to make a better justice system, and it is a shame for me to see that lawyers are using their intelligence and education in a negative way. We are gaining special skills, and as we read through case law or look up information for clients on how to make their business better we should use that to enhance our clients and those around us. King, watched something on TV, and used his education and skills to abuse our system. We have a responsibility to make our justice system a better one, not to know it well enough to make it work in our favor. I have high hopes that his class and test we have to take will help the legal industry become responsible for creating a better justice system by holding the lawyers up to a higher standard.

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  9. I think it is common for lawyers to break the law which is why we have classes like Professional Responsibility. Thankfully Saul Goodman is a fictitious character but as we see with Matthew King a fascination of fiction turned into an unfortunate reality. I don't think anybody should try to replicate what they see on t.v., but depsite my opinion people do it everyday. I feel that an attorney who knowingly and purposely engages in criminal activity should be held accountable for such actions. I feel that Matthew King's decisions where irrational and risky and that he could have made money legally if he had simply put his mind to it.- Kiegan Stewart

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  10. It seems comical to me that someone who was competent enough to pass the bar would be foolish enough to pattern crimes in real life after those in a television show. Saul Goodman was an example of a prototypical sleaze bag lawyer with a malfunctioning moral compass. It seems that it would have benefitted the defendant greatly in this case if he was able to watch the series to its conclusion. It was even more foolish for the attorney to actually reference the show when discussing the criminal activity with his client. Situations like these demonstrate why it is important to impose ethical obligations on practicing attorneys. What makes for an interesting television series is not conducive to a functioning civil society. Lawyers ideally should be seen as people who can be trusted with important duties and obligations. It is important that people have faith in the judicial system and all of the people who participate in it. - Steven Ferguson

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  11. This is Angel Villa. It is hard to believe that an attorney would stoop to the level of serious criminal activity. It would be impossible to state that all attorneys follow the law, and are law-abiding citizens in the United States. It should be apparent that there will be criminals in every profession, no matter how noble the job is. What is surprising is the manner in which the attorney was apprehended by authorities. It is hard to believe that anybody with such a high level of intellect would think that copying a television show would be a good idea. Lawyers have the unique opportunity to help the disenfranchised and groups of people that lack a voice, so it should be at the utmost importance that attorneys make sure to do the right thing. When attorneys become impulsive and decide to commit a serious crime, like money laundering, that type of attorney deserves a lengthy prison sentence. An attorney that has fallen on hard times should do their best to get back on their feet, and think about the type of reputation they will bring to their profession if they decide to commit a crime.

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  12. It’s interesting to consider that an attorney, who has worked diligently and substantially in his profession, would believe he could take a TV series plot and apply it to reality successfully. He jeopardized his career, and future, in a poorly planned laundering scheme and must face the resulting criminal consequences. It’s such a bold and outlandish move, and makes me wonder about how often attorneys attempt to break professional responsibility rules.

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  13. I am honestly not surprised at all about this article. No matter how many classes, lectures, or TEDtalks we attend on ethics or professional responsibility. Nor how many evaluations or tests we take to test us on the matter There are people out there that will try and take advantage of their situation, and try to make more money through deceitful/unethical means. People can pass tests all day showing us that they have knowledge of their professional responsibilities as attorney's, but there are more people than you realize that will break and bend these rules in order to make things easier for themselves or to make an extra buck. I really think that it is important that practicing attorney's keep each other accountable for their actions. Attorney's have the ability to change people's lives, and with that I believe that they should be held to the absolute highest standard when it comes to morals, ethics and professional responsibility. Attorney's already have such a bad rep as being deceitful, and greedy. People like Matthew King make everyone in the law community look bad. He deserves what is coming to him.

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  14. Personally I'm not all that surprised about an attorney copying Saul Goodman's (from Breaking Bad) act. I believe many attorneys, as well as other professionals, do illegal things and believe that they are able to get out of it because "they know the law" or "they practice the law." In addition, because of the type of stress an attorney goes through to make money (attending court, preparing a case, etc.), it isn't surprising that attorneys may get their head wrapped around an "easier" and "faster" way to make money, such as laundering drug proceeds. Also, because Matthew King was a criminal defense lawyer, he was obviously exposed to many illegal activities and potential opportunities to engage in these activities. I'm definitely not saying that King is right in what he did, but I don't believe that it's all that surprising that he did that.

    However, it is crazy that an attorney would actually risk all that he has and all that he's achieved in life to engage in criminal activities.

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  15. I find it sad, yet amusing, how someone who is competent and intelligent enough to become a licensed attorney tried to pull off a sham based off of a fictitious television show. Not only was Matthew King convicted, his reputation as a lawyer is now tainted all because he was going through a rough patch. Even though courses like Professional Responsibility and taking the MPRE is a good first step at building a foundation for a lawyer to practice ethically, people are still doing illegal things for their own gain. I think that having some sort of mandatory continuing education regarding the ethical practice of law could be a way to reduce and help struggling attorneys, like King, from having to rely on illegal and unethical practices for their benefit. - Jake Trinh

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  17. I'm shocked that a lawyer watched a show and thought to make something fictional his reality without thinking it through. It's bizarre that someone who passed the bar and knew the consequences could think it's clever to commit a crime. Lawyers should be held to a higher standard because of the intensity of studying the law. It's unfortunate that a lawyer would do something he knows is illegal and ruin all he built, instead of figuring out other solutions. As a lawyer, King knew he was being held to this high standard; he should absolutely be held accountable for his actions.

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  18. While I have never seen Breaking Bad, I'm sure that following in the footsteps of a fictitious criminal can never end in something good. It's interesting how an attorney was able to set aside all his moral despite knowing that great consequences could come from his actions. In his defense, I do agree that it may have been prejudicial to inquire about a past arrest related to possession of cocaine. The fruit of that investigation has nothing to do with the current charge and is likely to have swayed a jury to believe that the statement was in fact meant to be true. Nevertheless, the issue at hand is related to the confrontation clause which deals with the defendants opportunity to challenge the statement made. Here, the court argues that the recorded statement was not impermissible hearsay because the laundered money was represented to be unlawful drug proceeds, rather than to prove that the statements were true. I'm on the edge with this response because if they are basing a conviction based solely on the audio tapes then he should have the opportunity to cross examine and he truthfully isn't being afforded this opportunity. While I agree he should be convicted, I do not agree with the court process.

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  19. How anyone would think that something that had occurred in a TV show could be acted out in real-life is still beyond me. Was King's greed for money (though he had fallen on hard times) so strong that he resorted to illegal methods in order to gain more. That fact that King, being a practicing attorney, had even attempted to launder money fully knowing the consequences of his actions is not only socially appalling, but morally reprehensible. King's actions begs the question are we, as current attorneys and future attorneys, truly ready to be able to analyze the law in a "fair and justice" way without the influence of bias, in order to give a proper ruling. And will the strength of our character (being moral and ethical) influenced by the Professional Responsibility Rules be enough to aid us in this endeavor of being excellent attorneys or will we follow the same demise as King. -Kiari Mucthison

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  20. If you've ever watched Breaking Bad it becomes clear within five minutes of meeting the character Saul Goodman that he is a shady fellow. This is perpetuated throughout the show in many different ways. For an attorney to honestly believe that using or mirroring the techniques of Saul Goodman was a good idea is hard to believe. Emulating a character, who in the show is at the very least a somewhat bad character, of a television show for use in one's law practice is simply a bad idea. The fact that an attorney was swayed to work with criminals and plan to engage in criminal activities with tthem suggests levels of desperation that I cannot fathom. An attorney should know better then to do something nefarious like that. The law profession is held to a high standard and it makes no sense that a fully trained attorney wouldn't be able to understand how to maintain and keep to those standards. - Colin Naismith

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  21. Although i have never watched "Breaking Bad", i am familiar with the premise of the show, and its depictions of illegal activities. I do not understand how an attorney, who happened to be involved in monetary problems, would think that becoming a criminal would be a good idea. Having a thought or an idea is different from trying to make it a reality. He took the necessary steps to connect himself with a drug dealer, and explain to him the different ways in which they could launder money. He had both the intention of following through with his offer, and the means to do so. As a practicing attorney, he was aware of the consequences his actions would bring. Even so, he decided to continue on with his plans and ideas. Now that he has been caught, there is no one else to blame but himself for his mistakes. I believe he should be held accountable for his actions.

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