Disclosure of former San Antonio attorney Chris Pettit’s suicide attempt angers bankruptcy judge

A lawyer has angered a San Antonio bankruptcy judge by revealing in open court that ex-lawyer Christopher ‘Chris Pettit – accused of looting millions of dollars from his clients – attempted suicide .

During a hearing on Thursday to determine whether Pettit should be allowed more than $10,000 a month for living expenses, attorney Tom Keyser revealed his client attempted to hang himself in February.

Keyser released the sensitive information to support Pettit’s request for $850 in mental health services as part of a monthly budget.

U.S. Chief Bankruptcy Judge Craig Gargotta denied the claim, ruling that Pettit was not allowed to spend the money. Pettit had spent more than $260,000 — including on trips to Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center — after filing for bankruptcy on June 1.

But the denial of Pettit’s request for living expenses was overshadowed by a flash of anger from the usually mild-mannered Gargotta, who chastised Keyser for announcing information in court that should have been kept confidential.

“Mr. Keyser, I don’t know what in God’s name you were doing,” the judge said at the end of the day-long hearing. never disguised a lawyer.”

Keyser had earlier told the judge that Pettit contacted him through the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program after his suicide attempt. The program helps attorneys who have “substance abuse and other mental health issues” and treats that assistance as “strictly confidential,” its website says.

Keyser credited the program for saving his life and career that were in tatters from drug addiction more than 30 years ago.

After Pettit, 55, was released from a Florida mental hospital, Keyser said he referred him to a psychiatrist and counselor in San Antonio.

“I don’t want Chris Pettit to get hurt,” Keyser told the judge as he tried to “validate” the $850 Pettit wanted for mental health services. “I want him to be able to get through this.”

Saying that Keyser was opening himself up to cross-examination by attorneys for creditors opposed to Pettit getting money, Gargotta ordered Keyser to “shut up and sit down.”

Keyser could have revealed Pettit’s suicide attempt in the privacy of the judge’s chambers rather than in court, Gargotta said.

“You put me in a very difficult situation,” added Gargotta. “Of course, I don’t want Mr. Pettit hurt. But Pettit’s legal team has put up “no evidence” to support the $850 outlay, let alone the rest of the expenses outlined in his proposed budget.

“Unreasonable” expenses

It came after it was revealed this week that San Antonio police are treating the death of Pettit’s younger brother Charles as a suicide. Charles Pettit, 49, had worked as a non-lawyer at Chris Pettit & Associates until it closed in May amid growing allegations from clients that their money had been stolen.

A police incident report shows Pettit requested a welfare check from his brother on July 12 after not hearing from him for nearly a month. Police discovered Charles Pettit’s body in the house where he lived in Deer Crest.

Petitt had told police that his legal issues may have caused his brother to harm himself.

As lawsuits piled up against him and his firm, Chris Pettit in June gave up his attorney’s license and filed for bankruptcy, declaring about $40.5 million in assets and $112.2 million. millions of dollars in debt.

The exchange between Gargotta and Keyser capped a confusing day for Pettit’s legal team, who offered only his testimony to back up his claim for $10,310 a month to cover living expenses.

No invoice or receipt was presented as evidence, as is normal in such cases, which led Gargotta to reject the request to grant him a “limited” budget.

Pettit’s monthly budget request included $3,000 for child care; $2,000 for his 10-year-old son’s tuition at Saint Mary’s Hall, a private school; $400 for cable and Internet; $450 for a cell phone; and $400 for prescriptions and co-payment of health services. He and his son live in a 5,000 square foot home in a gated community in Stone Oak. Pettit valued it at $1.8 million.

“These expenses are not reasonable by any stretch of the imagination,” the judge said. He also wasn’t convinced that Pettit was doing his best to cut expenses and find a job. Gargotta sided with the Chapter 11 trustee and attorneys for several creditors, who opposed the request.

Pettit ‘evasive’

“Many people sitting in this gallery today, your honor, cannot afford to meet their daily obligations because Mr. Pettit stole their money,” attorney Leslie Luttrell said, referring to the dozen of creditors who attended the hearing. “The court needs to keep that in mind as they analyze whether or not they should award him a penny.”

Pettit had withdrawn a large sum of money from his retirement accounts to fund his post-bankruptcy lifestyle. His bankruptcy attorney argued that the accounts were funded by legitimate income, so creditors cannot claim them as assets of the bankruptcy estate to distribute. However, no decision has been made on whether the retirement money is exempt from the bankruptcy estate.

Luttrell countered that his clients argue that any retirement money Pettit wants to use to support himself is “tainted by fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.” It’s Pettit’s burden to show the money is untainted, she said.

He could not explain the numerous money transfers Luttrell had asked him about, including $125,000 transferred from a trust account intended to hold the client’s money in his personal checking account on April 18.

Gargotta found Pettit’s testimony “elusive” and not “entirely believable”, noting that he repeatedly answered “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” when questioned by the police. creditors’ lawyers.

“The situation in which Mr. Petitt finds himself is of his own creation,” the judge said. “So he’s going to have to dig himself in.”

To get a job

The judge has given Pettit’s team the chance to refile for the budget, but he’s going to have to find a job.

Pettit had a job offer in Orlando, but it was taken away after the employer discovered his legal troubles. Pettit testified that he filled out job applications at more than 100 companies, including Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld.

In the meantime, Pettit isn’t even allowed to use the airline points he’s earned to book flights. For a few weeks before the bankruptcy, Pettit traveled between San Antonio and Orlando, where he lived in a more than $6 million mansion at Disney World. Points are considered an asset of the bankruptcy estate.

Pettit said the mansion was owned for the benefit of his son’s trust. A lawyer for the trust told Gargotta that they were working on the sale of the mansion and an apartment building in New Orleans that the trust also owns.

The trust was set up for the health, education and support of Pettit’s son, but it has no bank account or cash assets, some of which was used to buy the real estate. Pettit, who is trustee of the trust, acknowledges that he probably owes the trust money.

“As a Texas attorney and trustee of the trust, you know this trust prohibits personal transactions, right?” asked Martin Seidler, creditors’ attorney.

“Yes,” Pettit replied.

Also on Thursday, Pettit testified that he waived his debts in the bankruptcy case. This means that he is obligated to repay creditors.

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