NC Appellate Court upholds punishment for attorney accused of swindling innocent Black Men
By Cash Michaels
On November 1st, the NC Court of Appeals upheld a decision by the State Bar to suspend the law license of an attorney accused of swindling two Black mentally impaired half-brothers who had served more than 30 years in prison for a rape and murder of an 11-year-old Red Springs teenager they did not commit.
The attorney, Patrick Michael Megaro, reportedly took hundreds of thousands in restitution money from Henry McCollum and Leon Brown.
Both men were once sentenced to death in 1983 for the crime. Upon appeal, they were both found to be intellectually deficient, and re-sentenced to life in prison until they were exonerated in 2014 when DNA evidence proved their innocence.
Upon McCollum and Brown’s release, they were represented by attorneys for free in filing civil lawsuits against the Red Springs Police Dept. for alleged misconduct. Those lawyers also filed pardon petitions for restitution by the state for their wrongful convictions and 30 years’ incarceration.
Reportedly, two consultants contacted the sister of the men, promising to put them in touch with an attorney who they said was better equipped to help Brown and McCollum manage all the money that would be coming in from the lawsuits and restitution for $10,000 each.
Enter Attorney Patrick Michael Megaro in 2015.
Megaro worked out a deal with Brown, McCollum, and their sister for 33% of any proceeds awarded from the Red Springs Police Dept. lawsuit, as well as the $750,000 each in restitution from the state. Megaro also got them to agree to taking out $100,000 loans at 19% each compounded every six months.
According to the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the North Carolina State Bar and upheld by a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the state paid $1.5 million ($750,000 each) to McCollum and Brown in Sept. 2015, but it did so through Attorney Megaro. He, in turn took $500,000 off the top as his contingency fee, then took other monies for various other expenses, effectively cleaning Brown and McCollum out financially.
It wouldn’t be long before other attorneys for the half-brothers hauled Megaro into court, claiming that he filed false papers on their behalf just to have access to their money, and alleging that they did not suffer from mental deficiencies and could manage their finances.
But several mental specialists testified that Brown and McCollum did not have the capacity needed to manage large sums of money and could not have fathomed what Megaro was doing with their money.
The court agreed, and soon a complaint against Megaro was filed with the NC State Bar. Megaro appealed their decision to the NC Court of appeals and lost.