Monday, July 23, 2012

Fore!

An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended a censure of an attorney for an altercation that took place on a golf course in the Village of Crete:

 Mr. Baron, Mr. Weiss, Mr. Holland, and Mr. Donovan were a foursome, with Mr. Baron and Mr. Weiss as partners in one golf cart and Mr. Holland and Mr. Donovan as partners in a second golf cart. The foursome teed off at approximately noon, and arrived at the seventh hole between 1:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Mr. Baron and Mr. Weiss admitted consuming alcohol on the golf course, while Mr. Holland and Mr. Donovan did not consume alcohol. While at the seventh hole and on his third shot, Mr. Baron hit the golf ball to the left. After hitting the golf path, which is to the right of a residential road that divided the seventh hole and Respondent's house, the ball hit Respondent's house making a loud noise. Mr. Baron and Mr. Weiss then drove their golf cart to about where the golf ball hit the path and looked for the ball. After seeing the ball in Respondent's yard, about six to ten feet from Respondent's house, Mr. Baron, alone, left the golf course and went to retrieve it. Mr. Weiss testified that the ball had hit Respondent's gutter and the dent was visible from the golf course.

As Mr. Baron returned to the golf course with the ball, Respondent came out of his house and examined it for damage. Mr. Baron apologized for hitting Respondent's house, and Respondent requested Mr. Baron's driver's license. Mr. Baron did not feel comfortable giving Respondent his license, so instead offered his name and phone number. Respondent then demanded his license and, according to Mr. Weiss, Respondent stated he was a federal agent. Respondent said he was going to call the police, and Mr. Baron said he would be willing to wait and give the police his information. Initially, Respondent and Mr. Baron talked from opposite sides of the residential street dividing the golf course and Respondent's house. Mr. Baron did not feel threatened by Respondent.

As the conversation escalated to an argument, Respondent approached Mr. Baron in the area between the road and the cart path. During this argument, Respondent yelled obscenities, stated he was tired of golf balls hitting his house, and accused Mr. Baron and Mr. Weiss of purposefully aiming at his house. He also stated that someone had broken his window recently.

At some point during this argument, Mr. Weiss became involved. Mr. Weiss told Respondent to calm down and that he assumed the risk of a golf ball hitting his house because he lives next to a golf course. Mr. Weiss and Respondent began arguing face-to-face, and Respondent was cursing at Mr. Weiss. Respondent turned and looked as if he were going back to his house, but then came back around and struck Mr. Weiss in the eye, bending Mr. Weiss's eye glasses. Mr. Weiss fell to the ground, and Respondent jumped on top of him. According to Mr. Weiss, while Respondent had him pinned to the ground, Respondent made "baby noises," scratched him, and tried to bite him. Mr. Weiss testified that he neither punched nor kicked Respondent. Mr. Weiss also did not see any of the other three golfers do so.

While this incident took place, Mr. Donovan gathered up the loose golf clubs because he was concerned that they might be used as weapons, and Mr. Baron unsuccessfully tried to pull Respondent off of Mr. Weiss. Eventually, Respondent was pulled off of Mr. Weiss by Mr. Holland. Mr. Holland got behind Respondent and pulled him onto himself, restraining him until he calmed down. Mr. Holland testified that he neither kicked nor hit Respondent and Respondent's back was not on the ground. Upon being released, Respondent yelled obscenities at the golfers. As he was returning to his house, Respondent stated he was a federal agent and informed the four golfers that they were in trouble. None of the golfers called the police.

With the exception of Mr. Weiss, the golfers continued to play...

The golfers advised a golf course employee of the incident. The employee called the police.

The attorney was charged with and convicted of battery. He is a federal arbitrator.

The hearing board found that the attorney's lack of remorse, as well as his attempt to cover up his conduct, were aggravating factors:

Instead of demonstrating remorse, Respondent, subsequent to the incident...engaged in a deliberate course of conduct to mask his role as the aggressor. From his first contact with a police officer, Respondent attempted to portray himself as the victim, rather than the aggressor.

...Respondent delayed in going to the hospital until approximately 7:00 p.m., despite claiming he was not feeling well and believing he might be bleeding from the brain at 2:51 p.m. when he left the police station. Moreover, Respondent testified that despite thinking he was suffering from severe head trauma, he drove himself to the hospital. Respondent claimed his wife could not drive him because she had to get their children off of the school bus, but then testified that their children typically get off the bus at approximately 4:00/4:30 p.m. We find Respondent's testimony incredible, and believe he only decided to go to the hospital after contemplating that he was on the receiving end of a battery charge and that hospital records might assist him in his defense.

Further, while at the hospital, Respondent informed the hospital staff that he was a victim of an assault perpetrated by three men and coughing up blood. Respondent as an experienced attorney and federal arbitrator knew his representations would be recorded. We find these actions by Respondent to be calculated and self-serving.

Respondent's attempt to cover up his role in the October 2, 2009 incident continued on October 4, 2009, when he took photographs of the tops of his hands, depicting no offensive wounds, and of his elbow, showing a well-developed scab. Due to the nature of the scab, we do not believe Respondent?s elbow injury, as depicted in the October 4, 2009 photograph, was a consequence of the October 2, 2009 incident, and we are troubled by Respondent's attempt to convince us otherwise. Moreover, the photograph of Respondent's hands does not convince us that he was the victim. Additionally, on October 5, 2009, Respondent's cover-up continued when he attempted to convince Chief Paoletti to drop the charges against him. Respondent, after considering the battery charge and his upcoming trial, took deliberate steps to portray himself as the victim. Respondent's actions were deceptive and, consequently, significantly aggravating.

(Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2012/07/fore.html

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