A former district attorney with a history of
driving drunk was disbarred March 28, 2001, after covering up his
involvement in an alcohol-fueled accident with the aid of a client. WILLIAM
RANDOLPH NEILL [#43582], 59, of Los Angeles also was ordered to
comply with rule 955 of the California Rules of Court. He made the
unusual move of stipulating to disbarment after the State Bar Court
found he engaged in an elaborate coverup and insurance scam begin-ning
in 1994, when he crashed his flatbed truck on a stretch of highway in
Neill, who served as the rural northern
California county's district attorney from 1972 to 1979, had three
prior convictions for drunken driving, all stemming from arrests in
1986. In one case, he ran his pickup truck off the road and crashed
into a tree.
After two of the convictions, Neill was suspended
from practice, stayed, and placed on probation for two years by the
State Bar Court.
On Dec. 26, 1994, Neill lost control of a vehicle
for the second time. His 1967 Ford pickup spun out on a dark mountain
road, crashing into an embankment and coming to rest in an oncoming
Police found Neill about an hour later, lying on
an embankment about 1,000 feet from the accident scene. He was
disheveled, bloodied and apparently drunk. Neill claimed he was a
passenger in the truck, not the driver, but police arrested him on
suspicion of driving under the influence. Tests showed his
blood-alcohol level was as high as .22 percent, nearly three times the
The next day, Neill asked a client - a male
family friend he was representing in a marital dissolution and
child-custody case - to take responsibility for the accident. Neill
helped the client and the client's mother prepare and submit written
statements to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
The statements indicated the client was driving
the truck when the accident happened and that Neill was only a
passenger. Neill's then-girlfriend backed the story with another
false statement. The former district attorney also gave false
testimony at two DMV hearings as he sought to have his driver's
The client was convicted of misdemeanor hit and
run. Neill was exonerated.
In September1995, Neill filed a small-claims
action against the client, winning a $5,021 judgment from the
client's insurance company. Neill later told the bar court he used
the proceeds to pay off the client for taking the blame, but the man
said he was never paid.
The coverup unraveled when the insurance company
began investigating and Neill's relationship with the client soured.
"He was getting away with it until, for
whatever reason, (the client) became unhappy with the situation,"
said State Bar prosecutor Kristin Ritsema.
Three years after Neill filed the insurance
claim, the attorney general's office filed six felony charges
Neill accepted a plea agreement in 1999, pleading
guilty to one count of preparing false documentary evidence in
connection with the DMV statements. He received a suspended three-year
jail sentence and was placed on probation.
Neill was in trouble with the bar in 1998 when he
stipulated that he failed to deposit client funds in a client trust
account or pay out the funds promptly. He had issued a check to a
client, but the balance in his trust account fell below zero four
times and the client was unable to negotiate the check. When Neill
heard about the returned check, he acknowledged his failure to oversee
his trust account and made restitution with interest.
In addition, he was found guilty of contempt
charges in 1997 after he failed to appear at a hearing for a client
and did not appear at his own contempt hearing. He received a one-year
stayed suspension and was placed on probation for 30 months by the
Neill also was given a stayed suspension and
placed on two years of probation in 1990 as the result of a no contest
plea to driving under the influence with a prior.