Sullivan's Estate Wants DA Allison Palmer to Give Back its Money She Seized
SAN ANGELO, TX — The estate of John Sullivan wants 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer to give it back $500,000 the DA seized and kept during the early stages of the John Edward Sullivan saga.
On April 4, 2014, 51st Assistant District Attorney Ashley Knight made a motion in a Tom Green County Court to have the State seize the money held in John Edward Sullivan’s Sterne Agee investment account. The account, with around $3.6 million in it, was likely the most liquid of all of Sullivan’s $8 million estate. The rest of his assets were in real estate or in offshore accounts, according to informed reports.
Months prior to his death, Sullivan was accused and arrested for sex crimes against children. At the time of his death, in June 2014, he was out on bond awaiting trial. Sullivan had amassed a small fortune during his lifetime and because of the crimes he was accused, the State seized a great portion of his assets.
The total $8 million estate value was tossed around during the trials of Ray Zapata and John Young, both convicted of forging Sullivan’s will.
The dates are important, so follow the chain of events.
Knight made the notice of forfeiture on April 4, 2014. Sullivan was served on April 17, 2014. But Sullivan’s lawyer John Young filed the original answer six days prior on April 11, 2014. Young’s attorney buddy Chris Hartman also signed the answer, according to court documents.
According to testimony during attorney John Young’s forgery and theft trial, we learned Sullivan hired Young on a contingency fee arrangement. If Young could get the forfeited cash back from the State, Sullivan agreed to pay him 27 percent of the assets he recovered. In this case, Young’s take was nearly $1 million.
Before the courts ruled on Knight’s Notice of Seizure and Intended Forfeiture, Sullivan died at his home on June 3, 2014 and his body discovered the next day, June 4. On June 5, Young, likely worried his $1 million contingency fee was gone, filed the handwritten forged will for Sullivan’s estate in probate court June 5, 2014. Sullivan allegedly wrote the will on June 2.
The will left the entire Sullivan estate to John Young.
It was not until July 2, 2014 that State District Judge Tom Gossett ruled during a hearing on Knight’s request for forfeiture and made his judgment. That judgment is now the reason Sullivan’s temporary executor of the estate Michael E. Deadman is suing the State of Texas through Allison Palmer, the 51st District Attorney, to get that money back.
In Gossett’s ruling, he gave the State $500,000 before the rest of the proceeds went to then-heir John Young, as specified in the forged holographic will. Young proceeded to spend as much of the jackpot as possible. In court during his trial, Young testified that he was rapidly spending down the account by paying estate expenses in order to lower the death taxes on what remained. He also spent the money on himself, including paying off the loans for two BMW automobiles, and disbursing money to his wife and kids.
During the Young trial in late 2017, an expert on the finances of the estate, estimated only $200,000 remained, with attorney’s fees and judgments against the estate stacking up.
Getting the $500,000 back from the State’s seizure may offer the estate an opportunity to pay victims of Mr. Sullivan who won judgments against the estate in court. These are boys, some now grown, argued to have been sexually assaulted by Sullivan.
Deadman was appointed by the court to be the Temporary Administrator of the Estate on January 21, 2015, after Young and Zapata were under investigation for forging Sullivan’s will and stealing his estate. By January 22, the court ordered all of Sullivan’s assets frozen, and for Young to return all of the “liquid assets” remaining.
Subsequently, Young and Zapata were convicted of forging the will. Zapata is out on an appeal bond while Young sits in prison near Palestine. Young is eligible for parole in January.
Deadman argues that after Sullivan’s death, neither Young nor Hartman had authority to represent the estate of Sullivan. Young’s contract with the old man ended upon his death, according to Texas law, Deadman argues. What is more, the forfeiture proceedings were illegal. According to the law, the heirs, executor, or estate administrator must be notified and be offered the opportunity to defend the estate.
Young was acting as Sullivan’s lawyer and his right to be an heir was subsequently removed when Young was convicted. Hartman had no standing as a result, since Hartman was acting as Young’s probate attorney for an estate Young didn’t legally own.
There is more. “The pleadings in the forfeiture action were not amended following Sullivan's death; however, the Agreed Final Judgment of Forfeiture identified John Young (aka John Stacy Young) as the defendant. John Young was never named as a party in the forfeiture action; he was never served with citation; and he never appeared as a party. John Young's only appearance in the forfeiture action was as the attorney of record for Sullivan,” pleads Deadman.
Deadman wants the State to give the $500,000 back to the Sullivan estate, less attorney’s fees, of course.
DA Palmer answered. She denied all charges against the State through her and demanded Deadman prove all of his accusations.
Meanwhile a few other lawyers are waiting on getting paid their fees and Sullivan’s victims await their just compensation for crimes against them.
Attorney Larry Bale filed the lawsuit in June 2018. As of Oct. 11, 2018, the case is awaiting a trial date.