SANTA ANA (CNS) - A Santa Ana-based attorney convicted of possessing child pornography was disbarred today when the state Supreme Court reversed a lesser punishment.

Gary D. Grant pleaded guilty in April 2009 to possession of child pornography, leading to an initial ruling of disbarment by a hearing judge.  After an appeal to the bar's Review Department it was recommended that Grant be put on probation for three years with various conditions, including a two-year actual suspension, according to the state Supreme Court.

The bar's chief trial counsel appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled today that Grant should lose his law license.

“Today's decision recognizes that belonging to the legal profession is a privilege and not a right,” said State Bar Executive Director and chief  executive Joseph Dunn. “The bar's ability to hold attorneys to the highest standards is critical in maintaining the integrity of the profession.”

At issue was whether Grant's crime involved “moral turpitude,” leading to automatic disbarment.

Grant was sentenced to 90 days in jail, three years of probation and lifetime registration as a sex offender after his guilty plea. On May 28, 2009, he admitted he violated probation when legal pornography was found on his computer, according to the Supreme Court's ruling.

On Sept. 28, 2009, Grant was again found in violation of probation when he sent sexually charged text messages to former girlfriends, according to the court. Grant was sentenced to 183 days in jail for the probation violations.

The high court brushed off Grant's arguments that his crime was not one of moral turpitude, citing a prior ruling.

In an email response, Grant said he was “surprised” by the ruling and insisted, “I never sought out images of minors. They were emailed to me unsolicited, and when I opened up my emails and saw them, I instantly deleted them.”

Grant said he regretted taking the plea deal.

“Never in a million years would I ever have thought I would be charged with this type of crime, and I only pled to the crime because my attorney advised that Orange County is the most conservative county in California (if not the country) and that any case involving this subject matter would likely  lead to a conviction because of the stigma attached to it,” he said. “In retrospect, I should have taken it to trial.”

Grant's claims were not considered credible by the initial hearing judge who recommended disbarment.

“My family and friends are crushed by the news, and the legal team that has participated in this long road is dumbfounded,” Grant said.

“I loved the practice of law, and worked hard to provide the best representation possible for my clients. I think the bar will be losing a valued and respected lawyer.”