SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 27, 2012

Lawyer admits stealing murder case file

By Julie Manganis
Staff writer

SALEM — A Lynn lawyer admitted yesterday to stealing the court file and original indictments in a murder case, though he's now not sure why he did it.

Both a prosecutor and a judge called Ilya Ablavsky's theft of the file "an attack on the integrity of the justice system."

"But for his mental health issues, with Mr. Ablavsky being an attorney, I would view this as a case for state prison," said Salem Superior Court Judge David Lowy, who suggested that, as a sworn officer of the court, Ablavsky was in a position to know just how wrong his actions were.

Instead, Ablavsky, 33, who pleaded guilty to a charge of tampering with a court record, was sentenced to 18 months in jail. All but the 64 days he spent in custody before being released on house arrest were suspended, however, and he will now spend two years on probation, Lowy ordered.

His lawyer said Ablavsky is expected to lose his law license.

Prosecutor Greg Friedholm described how Ablavsky, who had just received that law license a few months earlier, walked into the clerk's office at Salem Superior Court on the morning of Nov. 3, 2010, and asked for the file in the case of Jose Cabrera, a Lynn man charged in a gang-related shooting in Lynn.

Ablavsky was not representing Cabrera.

The lawyer who was representing Cabrera, Jeff Karp, received a call from Ablavsky in which he said the lawyer told him that he'd taken the file and shredded it, in the belief that the prosecution could not proceed without the original indictments.

It was not true; Cabrera was later convicted of second-degree murder, a verdict that touched off a melee inside a Salem courtroom last February.

Investigators subsequently learned that Ablavsky, who apparently knew Cabrera's family, had also attempted to take the original Lynn District Court file for the case but was stopped by a court officer, Friedholm said.

"He had an end game," Friedholm said. "It was his intent to allow Jose Cabrera to walk free."

"Not only was this an affront to the judicial system, it was an attack on our judicial system," said Friedholm, who had urged Lowy to send Ablavsky to jail for at least nine months of a two-year term.

The prosecutor also pointed to Ablasvksy's prior record, including charges that while a student at Brandeis University in 1999, he made bomb threats after running for mayor of Waltham and losing in the primary.

"When something happens that he doesn't agree with, he takes these steps," the prosecutor said.

During yesterday's hearing, Ablavsky denied shredding the file.

"I passed the file off to another person, and I believe he got rid of it, but I'm not sure what happened to it," Ablavsky said yesterday.

"I'm not sure what my intentions were," he said. "I was not thinking clearly at the time."

But he acknowledged, however, that "there was some intent to make the object unavailable. I just do not recall my exact thought process."

Ablavsky told the judge that in addition to bipolar disorder, he suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of being beaten with a metal pipe in 2005, he said.

He said he had discussed a possible mental health defense with his attorney, Ronald Ranta, but "I've decided not to do that."

Ranta and Ablavsky said that he had ignored the advice of the state Board of Bar Examiners, who issued his law license despite his prior brush with the law.

"They warned me not to go into solo practice," because of the extreme stress involved in starting and running a law practice, Ablavsky said.

Within months, however, he set up an office in Lynn, where the work and financial pressures caused him to "spiral out of control," Ranta said.

"I'm very sorry," Ablavsky said.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or jmanganis@salemnews.com.