A federal judge sentenced prominent Boston defense lawyer Robert A. George to 3½ years in prison Wednesday for money laundering and related crimes.
“It is a sad day today for the entire legal profession, bench and bar alike,” US District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton said in US District Court in South Boston.
Gorton said George had consorted with common criminals who spread poison to society’s most vulnerable.
“What were you thinking?” the judge asked.
George, 57, who was convicted in June of helping a former client to launder $200,000 in profits from crimes, maintained his innocence before he was sentenced.
“I know it pains everyone that I am standing here, pleading for myself the way I have for clients for so many years,” said George, a father of three. “I only sought to do what I could for somebody who asked for help.
“It’s hard to drive by the many courthouses that I have labored in for so many years,” he added. “My fall from grace has been long and hard,” he said as he removed his eyeglasses.
In a legal career spanning three decades, George has represented high-profile clients including organized crime figures and Christopher M. McCowen, a garbage collector convicted of the 2002 rape and murder of fashion writer Christa Worthington.
Associates, friends, and relatives of the disgraced attorney submitted 62 letters on his behalf to Gorton.
Assistant US Attorney Laura J. Kaplan said prosecutors are aware of the effect the conviction has had on George’s family and friends, “some of whom are our colleagues.”
But she added that George continues to lay blame on the government and the cooperating witness by claiming that prosecutors wanted to punish him for his “zealous” defense of defendants over the years in the same courthouse. “That is simply not the case,” she said.
Ronald Dardinski, a career criminal who secretly recorded conversations with George while he worked as a government informant, said during the trial that George had voluntarily offered to help him “clean” illicit profits and referred him to a Dedham mortgage broker who took in cash and in turn handed Dardinski checks.
George was arrested March 23, 2011. “Bob George, the individual, the human being . . . there’s a lot more than the isolated snippets you heard on the tape recorder in this case,’’ Robert M. Goldstein, George’s attorney said, addressing Gorton.
The judge ordered George to surrender Jan. 15.
Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of more than five years, while defense attorneys requested an 18-month sentence. George was convicted of seven counts of conspiracy, money laundering, and structuring bank deposits to avoid government scrutiny.
Prosecutors had argued during the trial that George offered to help Dardinski, a former client, legitimize Dardinski’s profits from a car sales scheme and later from drug sales.
The mortgage broker took 20 percent from each of two transactions, for a total of $40,000, and later divided it with George, prosecutors said.
George also violated bank reporting requirements by dividing a $25,000 retainer fee he received from another client and making deposits of less than $10,000, to avoid government scrutiny.