A former corporate lawyer in Denver who will soon be suspended from practicing law for 34 months said that he doesn’t regret forging a letter from federal immigration officials to prevent his estranged wife from leaving the country with their young son.
Andrew Newell, who passed the bar in 1999 after graduating from law school at the University of Colorado, will lose his license April 24. He doesn’t expect to practice law again.
“I’m guilty in the strictest legal sense but I certainly don’t feel guilty, let’s put it that way,” Newell said during a lengthy phone interview last week from Wyoming, where he now lives.
“As a father, I did the right thing. As an attorney, there’s no excuse for breaking the rules and I knew that,” said Newell. He later added, “I did what I had to do.”
Newell spent 20 years representing corporations as an in-house lawyer and later at Whitcomb Selinsky, a business law firm in south Denver. He lobbied governments and represented clients before the state’s Public Utilities Commission, according to his LinkedIn page.
In 2016, Newell met a woman in Peru and they married the next year in the U.S. But after they had a son together, their marriage became strained and Newell’s wife threatened to return to Peru with their son, who is autistic and now 4 years old, according to Newell.
“I knew that if she got him out of the country, I would never see him again,” he told BusinessDen. “That was my motivation for tricking her into giving up his passport.”
“I don’t regret going that far to keep my child from ending up in Peru, that’s for sure,” he said.
By copying and pasting from online documents, Newell created a letter, purportedly from the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, instructing Newell to give the government his passport and that of his wife and son. He took a picture of the letter, sent that to his wife, and told her to hand him the passports for her and their son so that he could mail them.
“Please tell me if the letter is real or not,” his wife texted at one point.
“I already told you, I am not an expert on letters from USCIS,” Newell texted back. “All I know is I didn’t make it, nor do I have any interest in keeping your passport from you.”
At some point, Newell’s actions came to the attention of the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, which investigates alleged wrongdoing by lawyers.
“During much of the disciplinary investigation, (Newell) denied creating this letter, despite the obvious questions about its genuineness, including that Leon Rodriguez, the purported author, did not even work at USCIS on the date of the letter,” that office wrote March 16.
“Finally, on February 24, 2023, (Newell) admitted that he fabricated the letter,” it wrote.
Newell and his wife divorced in September 2021. Newell says that she later tried to leave the U.S. with their son, partly vindicating his decision to forge the USCIS letter.
On March 20, Newell agreed to a 34-month law license suspension and $224 fee. The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel noted he had not previously been disciplined and has a physical disability that impairs his cognition. That disability led him to retire in 2019 but did not lead him to forge the letter, according to Newell and the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.
“I knew the risks when I did what I did,” Newell said Friday. “I’m not sorry that I did it.”