A disgraced San Antonio lawyer was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years probation after she pleaded no contest to charges that she misappropriated money from the estates of her own family members.
Bexar County Elder Fraud Prosecutor Joanne Woodruff said 54-year-old attorney Michelle Valicek bought an expensive house, a car and a piano for herself with those funds.
On Tuesday, in the 227th District Court, Valicek took the stand in her own defense, just after giving up her license to practice law in the state of Texas.
"I would love to try cases,” Valicek said. “I argue. I love to do this."
Valicek tearfully told how she would miss her chosen profession and the legal community. She also told how she cared for family members.
"I worked so hard,” Valicek said. “I ran a law office. I took care of grandmother."
Valicek admitted she made mistakes in running the estates of her grandmother and her grandmother's nephew but said it was not criminal.
District Judge George Godwin may have agreed.
"It's going to be a miracle if we can keep you out of the penitentiary,” Godwin told Valicek from the bench. “Do you understand that?”
“Yes, sir,” Valicek said.
The judge sentenced her to 10 years probation when she could have gone to prison.
"Now, quit crying, hugging your lawyer and listen to me," Godwin told Valicek.
Woodruff accepted the verdict.
"This may be the impetus to turn her around and make her fly right," Woodruff said.
But she said a half-million dollars is missing and that questionable deals were made. One example: Valicek sold the home of a relative for less than it was worth.
Bart Baker was a neighbor.
"It was eventually sold for less money than the lot was worth," Baker said.
In addition to the house, the D.A.'s office said Valicek sold another piece of property off of Highway 281. That one was less than nine acres and sold for more than $1 million.
Attorney Bill Bailey was put in charge of the estates after Valicek was removed and said he failed to find hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"There was still a lot of money that had been spent that was just gone," Bailey said.
Bailey was asked if Valicek had her hand in the proverbial cookie jar.
"Yes,” Bailey said. “She had it all the way in the cookie jar to the bottom."
Five years after her 10-year probation is served, Valicek is eligible to reapply for her law license, but she will be 69 then.