OAKLAND -- A former Alameda County Superior Court judge charged with 32 felonies for stealing the life savings of his elderly widowed neighbor agreed to a plea deal Thursday, allowing him to avoid prison time.
Paul Seeman, 58, pleaded no contest to one count of elder abuse and one count of perjury for stealing more than $1 million from his 97-year-old elderly neighbor by pretending he was caring for her estate.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley agreed to the deal, which, in addition to keeping Seeman free from prison, avoids a public airing of his crimes. The deal was offered before Seeman faced a judge during a preliminary hearing or before he faced a jury in a criminal proceeding.
As part of the deal, Seeman loses his bar license and is prohibited from practicing law in California. Earlier this year, Seeman agreed not to ever be a judge in the state.
Seeman also was forced to pay back more than $300,000 to his now deceased neighbor's estate and will be placed on five years probation. If Seeman violates any terms of his probation, he could face up to 5 years in prison. Although Seeman was originally charged with stealing more than $1 million, it remained unclear Thursday what happened to the rest of the money Seeman is accused of taking from his neighbor.
The plea deal also forbids Seeman from living with, caring for or acting as a financial aide to any elderly people. He also is not allowed to possess any "financial instruments" in any person's name but his own.
"Paul Seeman is not a free man; he is under the authority of the Probation Department for the next several years," O'Malley said in a statement. "Seeman has paid for his breach of trust as a judicial officer; and, he has paid for his financial abuse of the elderly victim who has since passed away. He will never serve in a position of trust or authority again, as a result of these convictions."
Laurel Headley, Seeman's criminal defense attorney, declined to comment.
Seeman was accused of spending a decade siphoning money from his neighbor Anne Nutting's retirement savings accounts and stealing valuable collectibles from her home and later selling them for profit.
Seeman was accused of beginning his crimes in 1999 after Nutting and her husband were banned from living in their Santa Barbara Road home in Berkeley because it was found uninhabitable. The couple were hoarders and were forced from their home after the Berkeley Fire Department deemed it unfit during a visit to treat Lee Nutting, 89, for a fall.
At the time, Seeman was an attorney focusing on juvenile law who lived across the street. He offered to help them with their legal troubles.
Less than a month after Seeman offered to help, he won a "durable power of attorney" over the Nuttings' savings, claiming he found $1 million worth of stock certificates and dividend checks in their house.
About a year later, Lee Nutting died, and Seeman is accused of then having begun his systematic campaign to steal all of Anne Nutting's assets.
Anne Nutting eventually remarried and contacted an attorney for help with her finances. That attorney realized Seeman was stealing from Nutting and contacted the Berkeley Police Department.
Investigators with Berkeley police and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office then conducted an eight-month investigation that concluded with Seeman's arrest in June 2013.
Seeman is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22.