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Law alums support embattled mate

Stanford peers empathize with alleged prostitute
whose cash was seized by federal government

By Josh Richman,
The Daily Review STAFF WRITER
September 23, 2004

Some Stanford Law School classmates of Cristina Schultz say they're irked by federal prosecutors' efforts to keep $61,000 of her money without proving the prostitution she allegedly committed to earn it.

Monique Bordeaux Wilson, a 2002 Stanford Law graduate -- one year behind Schultz -- who now is an associate with the Irvine-based firm of Payne & Fears, said she and other alumni "feel there's an underlying issue here that's not being addressed."

Students graduating from Stanford and other prestigious -- and expensive -- law schools often enter the professional world hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, she said, "in a position where we are indentured servants."

Wilson wanted to be a federal prosecutor, but that $50,000 salary couldn't have paid off her $200,000 in student loan debts -- a sum which would've been higher still if her U.S. Army service hadn't offset the costs -- so she went to Payne & Fears.

A big law firm, consulting or investment banking usually are the only viable choices for people with such large debts, she said.

Schultz, however, allegedly found another way.

"Cristina decided she was going to do something else with her God-given talents, and I believe the vast majority of our classmates would tell her, 'More power to you,'" Wilson said.

Frank Brucato, Stanford Law's senior associate dean for finance, doesn't see it that way.

"Stanford Law School makes it possible for all of its graduates to pursue all types of legal careers -- that is, 'legal' legal careers," he said, adding that the school in 1987 created a loan forgiveness program to pay off educational debts for graduates working in public service or government positions.

Federal prosecutors are seeking civil forfeiture of more than $61,000 cash that agents seized in January from Schultz' Oakland apartment, storage space and safe deposit box.

A forfeiture complaint filed in July claims the money was involved in money laundering and was the proceeds of Schultz's interstate prostitution business. A search warrant affidavit filed in January says agents sifted through trash, conducted surveillance, interviewed clients and a colleague, pored over tax returns and surfed the Internet to develop evidence against her.

But Schultz hasn't been charged with any federal crime. Federal civil asset forfeiture laws let the government seek to keep property representing a federal crime's proceeds even if the property's owner hasn't been charged. Civil libertarians long have complained that while criminal law requires the government to prove a defendant's guilt, these forfeiture laws burden property owners with proving their innocence.

Efforts to contact Schultz by phone, by e-mail and in person have been unsuccessful. She posted statements in an online discussion forum last year indicating she had paid off about $300,000 in law-school debts by working as a prostitute.

"We're definitely empathetic with her position," agreed Cori McGraw, another 2002 graduate who's now practicing tax law in Los Angeles with the huge international firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. "It does seem kind of a strange twist that she hasn't been charged with anything, yet the government would assert it's entitled to this money."

Like Wilson, McGraw said Schultz's predicament is food for thought.

"My goodness, if someone goes all the way through law school and decides they don't want to be a lawyer, what do you do? It does take that kind of money to pay off law school," McGraw said. "I mean, she's doing better hourly than a lot of the partners here."

Wilson said alumni with whom she has corresponded about Schultz this week "don't see that it reflects poorly on Stanford Law School ... I think the idea of it has crossed a lot of people's minds, frankly."

Wilson, a conservative who said she has political aspirations, said she believes that prostitution should be legalized, and even if it's not, that having the federal government spend time and resources investigating Schultz in order to seize her money "seems ridiculous, especially given the issues our government is faced with at the moment.

"Cori and I had a couple of classes with her and I talked with her on a number of occasions in class," Wilson said of Schultz, adding that rumors of Schultz's other career had swirled through the school even before graduation. "She was a sweet girl ... and very bright."