The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday voted to indefinitely suspend the law license of a Cleveland attorney who spent more than two years in federal prison after he was convicted of laundering money in a scheme inspired by the TV show “Breaking Bad.”
Matthew J. King, 48, took $20,000 from a federal informant posing as a cocaine kingpin with the promise that King would return it a few thousand dollars at a time, deducting money for fake legal services and business expenses.
King, who was released from prison December after serving half of a 44-month prison, will first have to prove that he successfully completed the three-year federal parole supervision he is currently on before he can apply to have his license reinstated.
The justices issued a unanimous per curiam, or unsigned, opinion on Tuesday announcing the suspension.
Justice Michael Donnelly, a former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge, recused himself from the case. Twelfth District Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Powell sat in his place.
King could not be immediately reached Tuesday. Matthew Golish, an attorney who represented King in his disciplinary case, did not immediately return a voicemail seeking comment.
Informant Marcus Terry worked with the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force and wore a wire during some of his conversations with King after the two met at Christie’s Cabaret, a strip club in the West Bank of the Flats. Prosecutors played the recordings at King’s trial and the jury convicted him in June 2016 of two counts money laundering and one count attempted money laundering. Senior U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent sentenced him to 44 months in federal prison.
The Supreme Court temporarily suspended his license after his conviction.
An appeals court noted while upholding his conviction that King, a former assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor who moved on to private practice and had a law office on West 3rd Street in downtown Cleveland, learned the scheme from “Breaking Bad.” In the show, sleazy defense attorney Saul Goodman used a similar method to launder the drug money of high school teacher-turned-methamphetamine-kingpin Walter White.
King was released from prison in August 2018, having served exactly half of his original sentence, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He remained on house arrest until December 2018, and was placed on three years of supervised release, according to court records.
The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association asked the Supreme Court earlier this year to permanently disbar King. The court’s disciplinary board recommended an indefinite suspension, which would give King the opportunity to apply for reinstatement in the future.
King said at a disciplinary hearing earlier this year that he was in the depths of severe alcoholism, in the midst of divorce proceedings and worried about his ailing father when he committed the crimes, records show. He completed several recovery programs while in prison, and his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Peter J. Corrigan, vouched for King’s character during the hearing, according to records.
The Supreme Court, citing Corrigan’s testimony, decided not to permanently revoke King’s license.