A disbarred Arlington attorney who had also worked as a municipal judge in Dallas is going to prison for pretending to be a lawyer.
Tiffany Lynn Lewis received a 10-year sentence from a Tarrant County jury Friday before state District Judge Robb Catalano, who presided over the trial, tacked on another 10 years after revoking her probation.
Lewis, 46, testified Thursday and Friday to try to persuade the jury not to give her a lengthy prison sentence. The minimum sentence was two years. Instead, she got the maximum of 20.
Lewis had been taken into custody Wednesday after a jury convicted her of falsely holding herself out to be a lawyer.
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“You had it all,” her attorney, Leon Haley, said as he questioned Lewis on Thursday. “You had the look, you had the clothes, you had the car. How’d you let it all slip away from you?”
The State Bar of Texas stripped Lewis of her law license in April 2005 because she had spent money that had been awarded to one of her clients in a 2003 probate case.
She had also worked as a municipal judge in Dallas but resigned that position in 2007 to avoid disciplinary action by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Lewis pleaded guilty in September 2009 to misapplication of fiduciary property in the 2003 probate case, admitting to spending a $78,000 settlement awarded to a Dallas family.
She was sentenced to 10 years’ probation and 60 days in jail and ordered to repay $58,000. She was also forbidden to hold herself out as an attorney or work as a fiduciary.
But according to testimony Thursday, Lewis shredded the conditions of her probation. She started a business and acted as a fiduciary, repeatedly failed to pay restitution in the ordered amounts, and moved out of Tarrant County without her probation officer’s permission.
A probation officer familiar with her case gave Lewis the worst score possible when he was asked to rate her as a probationer.
During her five years on probation, Lewis rarely paid the minimum in restitution and fees and was more than $15,000 in arrears, said Queinton Waldon, a senior officer with the Tarrant County Community Supervision and Correction Department.
Lewis blamed her lapses in judgment on abusive relationships with two men.
Lewis testified that after being disbarred, she started a business to help people in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. During one of her transactions, Lewis cashed a $500 check that identified her as an attorney.
“I didn’t pay any attention to what she wrote on the check,” Lewis testified. “I don’t want to practice law anymore. I’m a business owner and an entrepreneur.”
According to Lori Burks, Tarrant County assistant district attorney, that check was one of several that Lewis cashed in violation of her probation and the law.
“This had been going on for a long time, since 2005,” said Burks, who prosecuted the case with Tiffany Burks and Zena McNulty.
During her testimony, Lewis said: “I caused my own problems. I made bad choices and bad decisions. No one else did that.”