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Harassment convictions lead to disbarment

A Solvang attorney who pleaded guilty to threatening to kill several lawyers involved in a price-fixing case he filed in 1996 was disbarred. CASH BONAS [#179837], 36, lost his license June 18; he pleaded guilty in 2003 to three counts of stalking and one count of making a criminal threat, all felonies. The State Bar Court determined that the offenses involved moral turpitude.

Bonas, who specialized in antitrust matters, sued three major grocery chains on behalf of his sister, Carrie O’Husky, and a friend from college, accusing the stores of illegally fixing the price of eggs. The class-action suit charged that consumers paid $250 million more for eggs over a five-year period than they would have in a truly competitive market.

The case generated a fair share of puns — one newspaper headline noted the supermarkets were accused of “cooking egg prices” — as well as remarks about the Bonas siblings’ first names. During a deposition, an attorney for one of the grocery chains said, “Cash and Carrie. I don’t believe it.”

All humor aside, the plaintiffs lost and were ordered to pay $120,000 to $150,000 to cover the legal costs of the three supermarkets.

According to the State Bar Court’s findings, Bonas began a pattern of harassment against several lawyers and law firms, some of whom were involved in the egg case. During a two-month period in 2001, according to the court, he made between 300 and 1,000 harassing or threatening phone calls to at least 11 law firms and sent more than 1,000 e-mails to several of the same lawyers he was calling on the phone. He also showed up at three law offices.

One of his targets was high-profile class action king William Lerach, who received at least 95 threatening e-mails and eight nasty voicemail messages in which Bonas screamed, shouted obscenities and threatened to kill him. Bonas, who had worked with several lawyers in Lerach’s law firm, also arrived unannounced at the firm one day and had to be escorted out of the building.

Another victim was an attorney who defended one of the supermarkets; he received at least 143 phone calls and scores of e-mails from Bonas, who threatened to kill him.

Bonas also threatened a lawyer who was a partner of an attorney who previously worked with Bonas. Bonas sent the man at least 218 e-mails and made numerous threatening and harassing phone calls, and he threatened the attorney’s family. He appeared outside the lawyer’s office one day, pacing back and forth and looking dirty and unkempt.

Two of Bonas’s targets hired security guards to protect themselves, their offices and their families as a result of his threats. Bonas intended his threats to be taken seriously, wrote bar court Judge JoAnn Remke in her disbarment recommendation.

“When he was escorted from the premises of Lerach’s law firm and was asked about the threats, (Bonas) admitted to them and stated, ‘Good. They were supposed to upset people.’”

Although he was not charged criminally, Bonas also threatened three other lawyers who were involved in the egg case.

Remke entered Bonas’ default in the disbarment proceedings and found no mitigation. She noted, however, that at the time of his misconduct, Bonas “may have had a substance abuse problem involving methamphetamine” and that he suffers from mental health problems.

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