June 29, 2008
An Illinois attorney who had pleaded guilty with adjudication withheld to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill in Florida is subject to a hearing panel's recommendation of a one-year suspension with all but 90 days stayed. The attorney's version of the offense was reported by the doctor retained by the bar:
Respondent informed Dr. Henry that as he was driving through an intersection, his cell phone rang and, when he reached for it, his car veered to the right. When he looked up, he was surprised to see campaign workers holding placards supporting Congresswoman Katherine Harris. Respondent denied driving up on the curb and could not remember if the campaign workers were in the street or on the edge of the sidewalk. Respondent also denied knowing that Harris was present, or that he could even recognize her. Respondent told Dr. Henry that when he realized his vehicle was approaching the workers, he turned the steering wheel hard to the left to avoid them. He then proceeded on his way and gave no further thought to the incident.
Respondent reported to Dr. Henry that he later learned from one of his tenants that the police were looking for him. That evening he took his medication for depression, as usual, and then contacted the police. At their request, he went to the police station. Respondent recalled that when he was speaking to the police, he "rambled" and talked about situations that disturbed him. When the police asked about the campaign workers, he made a comment to the effect of "if I intimidated them, so be it." The police took Respondent into custody and he was incarcerated for several days before being taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
According to the lawyer:
Respondent denied knowing Katherine Harris at the time of the incident or what she looked like. To his knowledge, the people standing on the corner with placards were campaign workers. He stated he feels he was a victim because the national media reported that he drove up on the sidewalk in an attempt to kill a Congresswoman. He denied driving up on the sidewalk or having the intention to cause fear to anyone. He acknowledged that he read Katherine Harris’ deposition and realizes that she was fearful. Respondent stated he received death threats after the incident and suffered a terrible ordeal. Occasionally he got reports from his probation officer that the FBI or the Secret Service were checking on him. He denied that the publicity of the incident included any reference to the fact that he was an attorney licensed to practice in Illinois.
The hearing board determined that the record established a sufficient basis to treat the criminal case as a conviction notwithstanding the withheld adjudication. One condition of the criminal disposition was a requirement that the attorney stay away from Congresswoman Harris. (Mike Frisch)
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