Shirley Emehelu

Edward De Sear

A story that we thought couldn’t get uglier just did. Edward De Sear, a former partner at several top law firms who stood accused of child pornography distribution, pleaded guilty to four counts of distribution of child pornography and to sex trafficking of a child.

One could argue that federal sentences for mere possession or even distribution of child pornography are too high. As noted in a 2012 article in USA Today, in some cases “offenders who possess and distribute child pornography can go to prison for longer than those who actually rape or sexually abuse a child.”

But if you possess child pornography, distribute child pornography, and sexually abuse children in real life, you deserve to go away for a very long time. What kind of sentence did Edward De Sear receive?

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Edward De Sear

On Friday we brought you the story of Edward De Sear, a former partner at several top law firms who now faces a charge of child pornography distribution. De Sear — a graduate of Columbia and UVA Law, who is now one of the nation’s leading capital-markets lawyers — has been a partner at Allen & Overy, Bingham McCutchen, McKee Nelson, Orrick, and Milbank Tweed. As we mentioned in our prior post, the charges against De Sear came as a shock to fellow New York lawyers and to neighbors of his in Saddle River, New Jersey (my hometown — I can walk to De Sear’s place from my parents’ house).

After our story appeared, a former colleague of Ed De Sear came forward, to share some recollections. “I’m completely stunned,” said this attorney.

What could our source recall about De Sear?

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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….

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