Lawyer accused of stealing from client waives arraignment

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Cape Girardeau lawyer disbarred in August 2009 and charged with felony theft, waived his preliminary hearing and initial arraignment before Associate Circuit Court Judge Scott Thomsen.

Joe T. Buerkle did not appear in court Tuesday; his attorney, Stephen Wilson, appeared on his behalf.

Buerkle, 58, allegedly stole $325,000 from a trust fund account he was managing, set up for the late Donald Thomasson. While Buerkle was serving as an attorney and trustee for Thomasson's trust, he deposited 34 of the checks into his own bank account. Authorities have said the transactions took place between December 2005 and December 2007.

Wilson said in discussions with the prosecuting attorney in the case there has been no objection to Wilson appearing in court without Buerkle.

The Missouri Supreme Court will assign a new judge to the case because circuit judges Benjamin Lewis and William Syler have recused themselves.

"It's not unusual. Mr. Buerkle has known both of them for years," Wilson said. "We don't know who the judge will be, so we're just kind of waiting now."

Buerkle, who had been practicing law in Missouri since 1968, reported his actions to the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel and surrendered his license Aug. 6. By surrendering his license to practice law in the state, Buerkle admitted his actions violated rules members of the Missouri Bar are sworn to uphold.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

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