When Alameda County Judge Paul Seeman was arrested earlier this month at his Oakland courthouse for allegedly embezzling funds from an elderly Berkeley neighbor, authorities indicated the case began with a tip to police from an unnamed lawyer in 2010.
Attorney Howard Abelson, a former El Cerrito mayor, told Patch that the woman whom Seeman allegedy stole from, Anne Nutting, approached Abelson for guidance in 2007.
"Basically she had concerns about Paul Seeman," said Abelson, who lives in El Cerrito and whose law practice is based in Richmond.
Abelson said he gave Nutting some recommendations on what to do and did not have further contact with her until about 2009, when she contacted him again.
"The situation had escalated to the point that I felt, to protect Anne, I had to go to the police," Abelson said.
"There were some threats being made to Anne Nutting that she might be removed from her home."
Abelson, a former deputy district attorney for San Bernardino County, went to police in 2010 to report what he knew about Seeman. Nutting died shortly afterward at age 97.
In court documents, the Alameda County District Attorney's office says the 57-year-old judge embezzled more than $200,000 from Nutting in the 13-year period 1999-2012. Prosecutors also allege that he committed numerous counts of perjury.
According to court documents, authorities first discovered Seeman's alleged misconduct on March 24, 2010.
Seeman pleaded not guilty to felony charges of elder theft and perjury last week, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He was arrested June 14 at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, where he was serving as a judge. He was released on bail of $525,000, according to the Chronicle.
The Associated Press reported that police began investigating the case "after they were contacted by an attorney she (Nutting) had hired to try to regain control over her financial affairs." The Oakland Tribune reported that the attorney was not named in court documents.
The Chronicle reported this past Wednesday that Nutting's attorney at the time was Abelson.
Seeman was appointed to the bench in 2009 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Seeman's attorney, Laurel Headley, offered a statement regarding the case.
"Judge Seeman has received an enormous show of support from the people who know him best and wants everyone to know how grateful he is for that support," the statement said. "We are committed to making sure all the facts in this case come to light in a fair and complete way. Judge Seeman does not intend to return to the bench until this matter is resolved."
Though the Chronicle reported last week that Seeman has been reassigned to a small claims court in Pleasanton, Headley's statement indicates that Seeman will not be serving as a judge until at least Aug. 7, his next scheduled court hearing.
Abelson, who served two terms on the El Cerrito City Council from 1980-89, may be called to serve as a witness if the case against Seeman moves forward.
Abelson told Patch he believes the Berkeley police department and Alameda County prosecutors have rightfully taken the matter very seriously.
“I really have a problem because basically the things he was doing, as far as I was concerned—and at the time he was not a judge, he was an attorney—were unethical.”