Edward De Sear

I grew up in the town of Saddle River, New Jersey, a suburb about 40 minutes outside of New York City. With its wooded rolling landscape and small-town charm, Saddle River is a pleasant place to live. Large houses, a mix of stately older homes and well-executed McMansions, sit on sizable plots of land, thanks to two-acre zoning.

It was a peaceful and bucolic locale, and when I visit my parents, it seems much the same. My colleague Staci Zaretsky, our newest full-time contributor here at ATL, also grew up there — and concurs with my assessment.

But Saddle River, like the suburbs depicted in such films as American Beauty and Happiness, is not without its drama. Yesterday Edward De Sear, 64, a resident of Saddle River and a capital-markets partner at the distinguished international law firm of Allen & Overy, was arrested at his home and charged with distributing child pornography. The charge of distributing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

UPDATE (12:00 PM): Make that a former partner of Allen & Overy. De Sear has resigned from the firm, according to a statement issued by A&O. Read it in full after the jump.

Let’s learn more about the allegations against Ed De Sear, hear from someone who knows him, meet his high-powered defense counsel — and check out his beautiful and historic home….

Here’s one account of what went down, from Thomson Reuters:

A partner in the international capital markets group at the law firm of Allen & Overy was arrested Thursday and charged with distributing child pornography.

Edward De Sear, 64, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Arleo in federal court in Newark, and was released on a $250,000 bond. He will be electronically monitored by the court….

According to the complaint, De Sear downloaded and distributed videos and images of child pornography using peer-to-peer networks on the Internet. Among the material downloaded by federal investigators from De Sear’s shared drive were images of prepubescent children being restrained and sexually abused, officials said.

The case is being brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey (my former workplace), represented by assistant U.S. attorney Shirley Emehelu (a former Debevoise associate). The four-page complaint contains detailed descriptions of the child porn allegedly found on De Sear’s laptop. There were two still images, featuring adult males penetrating prepubescent boys, and one 40-second video, featuring a young girl, her hands and legs bound with rope, providing fellatio to an adult male.

The complaint (via Am Law Daily) also contains this allegation about what went down during the arrest of Edward De Sear and the search of his house:

During the execution of the search warrant, on or about July 14, 2011, law enforcement agents interviewed EDWARD DE SEAR, who admitted, in substance and in part, that (1) he downloads and shares child pornography using his laptop; (2) he uses the P2P network to download and share child pornography; (3) he is the only person in his home who uses the P2P network; and (4) he receives sexual gratification from viewing child pornography.

If these allegations are true, it might be hard for Ed De Sear to get off — even though he’s hired two of the best criminal defense lawyers in New Jersey. De Sear is represented by Michael Critchley Sr. — a renowned trial attorney known as a “go-to defense lawyer” for high-profile individuals, including alleged mobsters, prominent politicians, and Rielle Hunter, former mistress of John Edwards — and John Vazquez, a former federal and state prosecutor, as well as a rising star of the defense bar. (Vazquez and I overlapped as AUSAs in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.)

The charges against De Sear came as a shock to residents of Saddle River and to many in the New York legal community. “He seemed to be a nice enough guy,” said one ATL tipster who contacted us with the news. “Fairly soft-spoken.”

In fairness to him, Edward De Sear is not the first Biglaw attorney to be charged with child porn offenses. In fact, it seems that there’s a growing trend in this area, noted by Am Law Daily:

De Sear is the third lawyer from an Am Law 100 firm to run into problems with child pornography in recent months. In June former Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher associate Moshe Gerstein was one of a number of people charged in a sweeping child porn sting conducted by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Gerstein was found dead in Mexico later that month.

Former Arnold & Porter lawyer Joshua Gessler lost his law license last month after he was charged in August 2010 with possessing and producing child pornography. Gessler pleaded guilty in March to six sexual offenses involving a 15-year-old girl, according to news reports.

Even if it’s not the first event of its type, however, it’s still shocking when a lawyer of Ed De Sear’s stature gets hit with lurid criminal charges. We’ve reprinted his Allen & Overy bio below (since it has already been removed from the website of the firm, which declined comment on the charges, other than to say an internal review has been launched). As you can see from his A&O bio, De Sear was recognized as a leading lawyer in the areas of securitization and structured finance, by such authorities as Chambers and Best Lawyers in America.

UPDATE (12:00 PM): A&O just issued a more detailed statement to us here at Above the Law:

Everyone has been shocked and appalled by the news that a lawyer in our New York office, Edward De Sear, has been criminally charged by federal prosecutors in Newark, New Jersey, after being arrested at his home. He has resigned from the firm. These charges involve very serious allegations of using and distributing child pornography. This is now subject to a federal investigation so we cannot make any further comment.

De Sear joined A&O fairly recently, in 2010. As you can see from his detailed LinkedIn profile, before that he was a partner at a number of other top law firms, including Bingham McCutchen, McKee Nelson (before it was absorbed by Bingham), Orrick (for over a decade), and Milbank Tweed. He started his legal career at a firm that later became part of Brown & Wood (now Sidley Austin). De Sear received his undergraduate degree from Columbia and his J.D. from UVA Law (after transferring in from the University of Florida).

Before we conclude, let’s cover the information we promised you about De Sear’s Lawyerly Lair. Here’s the Zillow profile:

A million dollars for a 6500 square foot house on two acres in Saddle River? That seems a little low. But there are probably constraints on what one can do to the residence, also known as the Ackerman-Dater House, due to its landmark status. According to the home’s Wikipedia entry, “[t]he house was built in 1745 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 10, 1983.”

To his credit, Edward De Sear — along with his wife Patricia De Sear, a psychologist — lovingly restored the home, saving it from ruin. They spent $500,000 and 18 months on the project, for which they were honored by the state of New Jersey.

It’s surprising to see a partner at a top law firm — one who enjoys restoring historic houses with his wife, one who supported the fabulous Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — to be charged with a crime like child pornography distribution. But as a stroll through our Lawyer of the Day archives reveals, even the most professionally accomplished lawyers can suffer from deep personal problems.

We’ll keep you posted about developments in this case. If you know Ed De Sear personally and have information you can share, please email us (subject line: “Edward De Sear”). Thanks.

UPDATE (12:45 PM): It’s worth keeping in mind that these are merely allegations. Sometimes lawyers get framed on child pornography charges.

Allen & Overy attorney accused of distributing child porn [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
Attorney from Saddle River charged with distributing child pornography [Bergen Record]
Allen & Overy Partner Facing Child Porn Charges in NJ [Am Law Daily via ABA Journal]
NEW YORK PARTNER IN INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRM ARRESTED [U.S. Attorney's Office - District of New Jersey]
Edward DeSear [LinkedIn]
The Historic Ackerman-Dater House (1745) Samp Mill Farm [New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection]

EDWARD DE SEAR — ALLEN & OVERY — ATTORNEY BIOGRAPHY

ZILLOW — ACKERMAN-DATER HOUSE — SADDLE RIVER, NEW JERSEY


comments sponsored by

60 comments (hidden for your protection) Show all comments