Erwin lawyer indicted for alleged thefts from clients

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Jul 18, 2019 at 8:36 PM

ERWIN — Erwin attorney William Branch “Bill” Lawson has been indicted on two felony theft charges that allege he stole more from $65,000 from his clients.

A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation press release issued Thursday afternoon states the TBI launched an investigation of the alleged thefts in May on the request of Assistant District Attorney General Justin Walling, a prosecutor with Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference based in Nashville.

According to the TBI, the investigation revealed 70-year-old Lawson took the money between October 2018 and June 2019. He was indicted by a Unicoi County grand jury last week on one charge of theft of more than $60,000 and one count of theft of more $1,000.

Lawson turned himself in to Unicoi County authorities Thursday morning and was placed in the county jail under $25,000 bond.

In May, the Tennessee Supreme Court temporarily suspended Lawson from practicing law after he failed to respond to a complaint of misconduct filed with the court’s Board of Professional Responsibility. The complaint alleged Lawson failed to pay a client’s ex-wife $65,000 given to him in October to place in trust pending the finalization of the couple’s divorce.

An affidavit filed in support of the suspension order states Lawson’s client borrowed the money to pay his ex-wife for interest in their marital home and gave Lawson a check for the $65,000. Lawson reportedly endorsed the check and placed his trust account.

The documents alleged Lawson failed to bring the money with him to court when the divorce was finalized in March or to respond to subsequent attempts to contact him about the settlement.