Timothy G. Bax has been punished enough, a City Court judge said Friday as he gave a conditional discharge to the former assistant Niagara County attorney charged with stealing money from clients to buy drugs.
The condition imposed by Judge Mark A. Violante is that Bax, 51, continue his recovery process from drug addiction.
"To punish you more than the punishment you've been through would be counterproductive," Violante said. "I'm sending a message to someone who makes the righteous step."
His parting words to Bax: "Good luck."
Bax, who lives in Niagara Falls, could have been jailed for up to a year, Niagara County District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy said.
Bax was deputy corporation counsel for the City of Niagara Falls from 1986 to 1999 before becoming assistant Niagara County attorney. He was fired in 2003 after a criminal investigation into his actions in private practice.
Bax was accused of stealing more than $100,000 from up to 10 clients to support his addiction to heroin. He voluntarily entered a rigorous rehabilitation program, paid back all the money he had taken and became a drug counselor.
"He turned his life around," Murphy said.
Bax's attorney, Terrence Connors, described his client's transformation from addict to counselor as a "tremendous journey."
"He has helped scores of individuals in the Niagara community as a counselor who overcame this particular problem," Connors said. "Tim is a wonderful person and has a wonderful future."
The criminal charges were dropped when Bax pleaded guilty in February to petit larceny, a misdemeanor.
The bespectacled Bax, neatly attired in a dark suit and tie, stood quietly as the judge read excerpts from letters written by people Bax has counseled.
"We're not dealing here with a criminal," Violante read from one letter. "He has helped me and a lot of people along the way."
Bax will be eligible to resume his law practice in July 2008.