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Al: former attorney specializing in wetlands & environmental law; former restaurant and bar owner; former law professor Univ. of Baltimore and Temple law schools
Joan: former general practice attorney specializing in real estate, commerical estates, contracts, matrimonial, etc.
Education: Al: B.A., J.D., Rutgers Univ.; Joan: B.A., Fairleigh Dickinson Univ., J.D., Seton Hall Law Center
CBN.com Al and Joan, both Christian attorneys, lived a lifestyle of the rich and famous. Both Al and Joan were raised Catholic. They lived in a nice home complete with tennis court and pool, had expensive cars and took exotic trips. He socialized with former New York Giants football players and held meetings with Donald Trump. His success in the courtroom was mounting and Al experienced one victory after another. Then, in 1999, federal prosecuters showed that Al and Joan had evaded taxes and committed fraudulent acts. A former law school professor, municipal attorney, trial lawyer and business owner, Al says that greed landed him in prison six years ago. He says his spiritual beliefs conflicted with his reckless lifestyle of hard drinking and his crimes. “We were backsliders,” says Al. “And for backsliders, it’s a long road back.” Because of their profession and training as lawyers, Joan says it was easy to convince themselves they were doing the right thing in their transactions. “What we did was not for money,” she says. “It was being involved in a business venture that involved bad decisions.” She says they told themselves that what they were doing was not the “best” thing but that they would make things better later. “Later never came,” says Joan.
Al served five years; Joan served four. “Every guy in prison says he didn’t have criminal intent,” says Al. “What’s important is what can be learned from this.” While in separate prisons, both Al and Joan were able to reflect on their past mistakes. During long walks, Al would ask God, “Why am I here?” He says it was a process through which he came to repent of his sins. He felt a renewed sense to steer others away from making the same mistakes. “Of all the horrible sins I commited, mine was without question pride,” says Al. Joan says God spoke to her during some of her time alone. “He told me that I violated His laws,” she says. “That’s when true repentance came.”
THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION
Life is prison is painful according to Al and Joan. She says that landing in prison after the trial was almost a relief, but leaving prison after serving her time was almost more difficult. While Al was still in prison, Joan lived with her dad and worked for her nephew. “Coming home from prison was a whole different thing,” she says. Cell phones gained in popularity while she was incarcerated. She was surprised to see people walking around with their hands to their ears.
Al says on the return home, he felt like a stranger. One day while they were at the shopping mall, Joan got her nails done, but he walked around crying. Despite their ordeal, Al and Joan say they have never been happier then they are today and have never had so much peace. “God allows you to rise up,” says Al. “In prison, I learned there’s nothing God and I can’t do together.”
After his release, Al was invited to speak at a prestigious business school. He made such an impact that today Al makes speeches to colleges and corporations, where recent corporate scandals and new laws give executives the incentive to pay attention. Some professors say he is making a difference and making a major contribution in the business world. Others say he may only reach a portion of those who might steer off course. “The biggest part of my hurt is knowing that I put my wife in jail,” says Al. As for fueling those scandals, he feels strongly that the desire for material things isn’t solely to blame. “Our universities are dropping the ball,” he says. “We blame white collar crime on greed and temptation, but our business and law schools feed it. Universities teach the students how to cloak things and how to get to the bottom line. It’s not about dollars and cents – it’s about having a moral conscience.” Al says that everyone in business knows deep down whether what they do is right or wrong.
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