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Ex-prosecutor suspended after torture conviction

A veteran El Dorado Hills defense attorney who once worked as a prosecutor in Sacramento was placed on interim suspension last month after he was convicted of eight domestic violence charges. RICHARD W. HAMLIN [#122725], 45, lost his license Feb. 28 and faces a possible sentence of life in prison.

Hamlin was convicted Jan. 10 of torture, the most serious of 18 felony charges he faced, as well as three counts of spousal abuse, making death threats and three counts of child endangerment. He was acquitted of seven charges and the jury deadlocked on three more charges.

Hamlin’s sensational trial, which lasted almost three months, featured testimony about a satanic cult murder plot, a wife’s supposed double life and an alleged attempt to extort money from Hamlin’s father-in-law by accusing him of molestation. The case is dissected on several Web sites devoted to cults, satanic rituals or conspiracies.

Hamlin and his wife, Susan, are both attorneys who once enjoyed a high-flying lifestyle, complete with a million dollar lakeside home and lavish parties. By the time Hamlin’s trial began last October, his lucrative law practice was shut down and in bankruptcy and the couple’s home was in foreclosure. Susan Hamlin’s divorce was granted in December.

The couple’s saga began in 2004, when Hamlin and his wife went to the El Dorado County sheriff to report that Susan Hamlin had conspired with a “satanic cult” to murder her husband, according to law enforcement. At the time, Susan Hamlin had cracked ribs and a broken nose and told authorities she had been punched by a cult member when she reneged on the murder scheme. Richard Hamlin was arrested two days later.

Two weeks earlier, police had investigated Hamlin when he accidentally shot himself at home. At the time, they noticed that Susan Hamlin had bruises on her face.

Prior to that incident, school officials reported that the Hamlin children were frequently absent. Their daughter told her teacher that her mother had broken ribs and the family was caring for her at home.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that in the face of financial ruin, Hamlin devised a plot to extort $1 million from his wealthy father-in-law by accusing him of molesting Susan Hamlin. She denied that her father abused her, but said Richard Hamlin beat her during “memory sessions” designed to win her agreement with the molestation charges. Three of the couple’s four children testified that their father told them their mother was possessed and he had to beat the demons out of her.

Susan Hamlin testified that she was punched, slapped and pistol-whipped on a nearly daily basis in the weeks before her husband’s arrest. She also told authorities her husband threatened her with a handgun and forced her to sleep next to him while he pressed a loaded gun against her chest.

Hamlin, who acted as his own attorney during the trial, insisted his wife was abused by her father and denied that he beat her or that his actions were motivated by money. “I am not the architect of some phony claim,” he told jurors in his closing statement. He called his wife a liar and said he was forced to cut back his legal practice in order to deal with his wife’s emotional issues as a result of the molestation.

On his “trial defense” Web site, Hamlin posted his thoughts about the verdicts, saying he felt both vindication and heartbreak. “I cannot explain what it feels like to have another make false claims about you,” he wrote. He claimed his wife’s injuries at the time the couple went to the sheriff’s department were the result of a beating ordered by her father “in a last ditch attempt to keep her from going to the police and revealing his long history of child rape, incest and satanic ritual abuse.”

The torture conviction carries a possible life term. Hamlin may be sentenced next month, depending on the resolution of several motions, including his request that the guilty verdicts be thrown out.

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