Defense attorney Roland Lawrence Bennett of Corning has been disbarred from the practice of law for “felony convictions involving moral turpitude,” reported the State Bar of California.
Bennett was sentenced a year ago to serve three years and eight months in jail for allegedly bribing and dissuading a witness from testifying However, the judge suspended the prison sentence pending Bennett’s completion of five years formal probation, 300 days in the county jail and that he submit to random drug testing, complete a drug and alcohol evaluation, and other standard terms.
On July 15 the State Bar placed Bennett on interim suspension due to his being convicted of the charges filed against him by the Tehama County District Attorney’s Office in Tehama County Superior Court.
The Bar states it then established that Bennett’s violation meets the criteria for summary disbarment - first, Bennett pled guilty to and was convicted of the felony. Of knowingly and maliciously dissuading witness from attending or giving testimony at trial, a crime punishable by imprisonment in state prison or imprisonment in county jail; and second, Bennett’s felony conviction involves moral turpitude per se.
Bennett, 51, was arrested by the Tehama County District Attorney’s office on Nov. 18, 2017, on Marguerite Avenue in Corning and booked into the Tehama County Jail on suspicion of bribing a witness.
During a phone interview with Bennett not long after his arrest, he told the Corning Observer he didn’t believe the case would even make it to court as the district attorney’s office was “exaggerating things.”
“The case in question is a criminal case I was handling for a client,” Bennett said at that time. “As is procedure, I did interview the alleged victim in this case, but there was no bribery.”
However, in the end, Bennett pleaded guilty to the charges.
According to the district attorney’s office Bennett was representing a client facing several felony charges, including assault causing great bodily injury. Over a period of about 14 months, from Sept. 2016 to Nov. 18, 2017, Bennett made several contacts with the victim in the case during which he negotiated an agreement that his client pay the victim a specified amount of money in exchange for the victim not cooperating with the district attorney’s office and refusing to testify in response to a lawfully served criminal subpoena.
Bennett was allegedly on probation with Butte County at that time for driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs.
The name of the person Bennett was representing in the case, and the amount of money allegedly offered to the victim, has not been disclosed by Bennett or the D.A.’s office.
Bennett has served his 300 days in jail and is now on probation.
A Corning High School graduate, Bennett started his law practice in January 2003, having attended California State University, Chico, and St. Thomas University of Law in Miami, Fla.