EXCLUSIVE – The lawyer who was handling former Navy sailor Kristian Saucier’s lawsuit against Obama administration officials - including the former president himself - has been barred by New York State from practicing for one year, presenting a major setback in the case.
The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court on Thursday suspended the law license of Ronald Daigle, who came out of retirement in 2016 to help Saucier win a pardon from President Donald Trump in March.
The appellate court determined Daigle, an Iraq War veteran with the U.S. Navy and the former police chief of his town of Granville, N.Y., had taken $23,000 from the estate of a deceased person without a retainer or authorization to take the funds. Relatives and a primary beneficiary of the deceased person had hired Daigle in 2011 to handle the estate.
The suspension came just a week after Saucier and Daigle told Fox News they were preparing to sue former President Barack Obama, former FBI Director James Comey, the Justice Department and others for subjecting the former sailor to “unequal protection of the law.”
Saucier, who served a year in federal prison for taking photos of classified sections of the submarine on which he was deployed, argues the same officials who handled his case gave Hillary Clinton a pass in her use of a private email server and handling of classified information.
Saucier told Fox News Daigle's suspension blindsided both of them. He said he will proceed with his lawsuit even if he must represent himself. Saucier said he cannot afford an attorney.
Daigle did not respond to messages for comment.
But Saucier believes there is more to the suspension than meets the eye, and wonders if it’s driven by an effort to hamper his plans to sue Obama administration officials.
“Out of the blue the court decided to come after Ron for his license for a year, the window I have for my lawsuit, and they announced it after we announced my case,” Saucier said. “It’s a liberal court system … trying to dismember my legal defense. It’s a shame, it’s retribution. They’ve backed us into a corner so that I won’t be able to file the lawsuit.”
"They're trying to silence us," Saucier said. "Ron doesn't deserve this. I won't be silenced. If I have to go to court and represent myself, act as my own lawyer, I will. I'm not going to be strong-armed."
They're trying to silence us....It's a liberal court system...trying to dismember my legal defense. It's a shame, it's retribution. They backed us into a corner so that I won't be able to file the lawsuit.
Saucier claimed that several times during hearings in state Supreme Court, Daigle was hit with comments or questions regarding his work on behalf of the former Navy sailor.
“Every time he went to court, they brought up my case,” he said. “This estate case happened years and years ago. It’s odd that this suspension is happens right now. It's upsetting. We knew we were going to have pushback. These are dirty tricks they play."
Sean Morton, deputy clerk of the Appellate Court Division’s Third Department, declined to comment on Saucier’s allegations.
“The decision of the court speaks for itself. Attorney disciplinary proceedings, like any other judicial case, take time and can take years. It’s not unusual for something like this to happen,” he said.
Daigle, who for years has battled health problems and essentially had stopped practicing law, came out of retirement when he learned of Saucier’s case.
Daigle pursued lines of communication with Obama administration officials, who had been approached about a pardon for Saucier, and then with those working for Trump. The semi-retired attorney also took Saucier’s case to the public, doing numerous media interviews.
The decision of the court speaks for itself. Attorney disciplinary proceedings, like any other judicial case, take time and can take years. It’s not unusual for something like this to happen.
In the case that led to his suspension, Daigle had argued in court conferences that he believed he was right to take the money, according to published reports in local news outlets. He returned $15,000 of it, the reports said.
“Respondent later explained that he felt that he was entitled to all of the money that he had remitted to himself from the estate, but he agreed to refund the $15,000 because he ‘was trying to keep everybody happy,’” the reports said, citing the court decision.
Earlier this year, Daigle told Fox News that in the lawsuit against Obama administration officials, “We’ll highlight the differences in the way Hillary Clinton was prosecuted and how my client was prosecuted.”
“We’re seeking to cast a light on this to show that there’s a two-tier justice system and we want it to be corrected.”
While campaigning, and after taking office, Trump frequently voiced support for Saucier, who in March became the second person he pardoned.
Trump often compared the Obama administration’s handling of Saucier’s case with that of Clinton.
Saucier pleaded guilty in 2016 to taking photos inside the USS Alexandria while it was stationed in Groton, Connecticut, in 2009. He said he only wanted service mementos, but federal prosecutors argued he was a disgruntled sailor who had put national security at risk by taking photos showing the submarine's propulsion system and reactor compartment and then obstructed justice by destroying a laptop and camera.
Saucier said that he recognized he had erred in taking the photos, which he said he wanted to show only to his family to show them where he worked. But he lashed out at Obama officials, saying that his prosecution was politically motivated, prompted by the backlash and heightened attention about classified information amid the scandal involving Clinton's emails.
As FBI director at the time, Comey said that Clinton’s use of a private email server as “extremely careless.”