Willie Shepherd, former power-broker attorney, sentenced in domestic case

Attorney and former Democratic power broker Willie Shepherd was sentenced to one year of probation, domestic violence classes and alcohol monitoring after pleading guilty earlier this month to third-degree attempted assault, a class two misdemeanor.

The plea stemmed from Shepherd's September 14 arrest on domestic violence charges.

Shepherd's wife, Sarah Trainor-Shepherd, called police to their Denver home a day earlier and said her husband had punched her in the head the previous week, sending her to the emergency room, where she received seven stitches.

Trainor-Shepherd described Shepherd as an alcoholic, according to the arrest affidavit. The affidavit also said she declined to press charges after talking to her lawyer, and that at least one of the couple's three children witnessed the assault.

Shepherd, represented by defense attorney Patrick Ridley of Ridley McGreevy & Winocur, pleaded guilty January 19 to attempted assault, while two other charges -- assault causing injury and negligent child abuse -- were dismissed.

"I want to let the court know I'm deeply sorry for the events that took place," Shepherd told Denver County Judge Alfred Harrell at his sentencing hearing earlier this week at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse.

Trainor-Shepherd appeared in court to support her husband, as did her parents and family friends.

"I know this has been difficult for everyone, especially the family," Harrell said. "I am satisfied that Mr. Shepherd is extremely contrite and obviously dedicated to becoming living amends to what cannot be undone. So Mr. Shepherd, I wish you the very best."

Shepherd will have to attend classes to treat domestic violence issues. He will also have to undergo random breathalyzers for a year to ensure he's meeting his probation requirement of sobriety.

Just three years ago, Shepherd was considered one of the most prominent lawyers in town. He had just come off a high-profile role as one of the top fundraisers for President Barack Obama's successful White House bid. Shepherd hobnobbed relentlessly during the August 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, and it was widely believed he'd land some role in the Obama administration.

But just a few months after being named a 2009 "person to watch" and "rising player behind the scenes of the local Democratic Party" by the Denver Post, Shepherd's fortunes turned. In May 2009, he announced his departure from Kamlet Shepherd Reichert, the firm he cofounded a decade earlier, which had grown to nearly fifty lawyers. It later came to light that Shepherd was forced out amid complaints that he had broken state rules of conduct for lawyers.

Shepherd received light punishment -- a public censure -- from the state Supreme Court's regulatory arm for misrepresenting to a potential client that his firm had 50 percent ownership by women or minorities. He also submitted to the White House a résumé with false information. Perhaps as big a blow to his image as the public censure was a scathing article in 5280, in which a host of former colleagues made further allegations of wrongdoing.

Shepherd rebounded with a new firm, Shepherd P.C., which in summer 2011 grew to nine attorneys and in July added former Samsonite general counsel Larry Ross as a named partner in Shepherd Ross. But by the time news of Shepherd's domestic violence arrest broke, Ross had already departed.

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Matt Masich

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