Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Permanent disbarment has been imposed by the Indiana Supreme Court of an attorney who, among other things, "maintained a tempestuous long-distance relationship" with his daughter's college roommate.
The story is a frightening tale of abuse and harassment after the roommate JR ended it.
During the course of the four-month affair and thereafter, the married attorney sent "at least" 7,199 emails to JR. The "vast majority" of these communications "were threatening, abusive, and highly manipulative in nature."
He borrowed about $8,000 from her and conditioned repayment on her meeting with him. He threatened to commit suicide.
Even more perniciously, Respondent threatened to publicly disseminate explicit photographs of JD taken during their relationship, and to contact JD’s family, friends, acquaintances, and other third parties regarding Respondent’s accusations that JD was a "whore" or a "slut" and that she suffered from mental illness and psychosis.
He then "repeatedly carried out...threats, both through emails to others and through postings on various adult-oriented websites." He also maintained a blog that identified JD by name and with photographs.
After JD started law school, he confronted her in the law school library and demanded that she have coffee with him.
Eventually the harassment led to the intervention of the associate dean for students at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. The attorney contended in response that JR was voluntarily engaging with him and told the dean she had "a lengthy history of mental illness, physical abuse, self-mutilation, and substance abuse."
JR obtained an order of protection but he not only continued the contact, he sued her in state court for malicious prosecution and abuse of process. He later filed a federal court action against JR and others alleging false arrest.
Before the Indiana high court, the attorney claimed that his interest in JR was "mutual, consensual, and not unwelcome."
Respondent also contends that his actions do not amount to stalking or harassment because there is no evidence showing that (1) JD actually experienced emotional distress due to Respondent’s conduct, (2) a reasonable person in JD’s position would be distressed by Respondent’s conduct, and (3) Respondent possessed the requisite intent. Again though, the hearing officer found to the contrary, the evidence amply supports her findings, and accordingly we decline to disturb them.
Finally, Respondent’s contention that he did not intimidate JD is similarly unavailing. His argument that he did not act with the intent to induce JD to do anything against her will invites a reweighing of evidence, which we decline. Nor do we find Respondent’s attempted invocation of truth as a defense to be persuasive here. Respondent’s statements to others about JD’s character and alleged mental illness, substance abuse, and physical abuse find no evidentiary support beyond Respondent’s self-serving testimony, which was discredited by the hearing officer. Further, statements that when viewed in context amount to "true threats" to someone’s safety – such as the thinly-veiled threats of violence contained in Respondent’s December 2008 email to JD, by which time Respondent had left dozens of profane and abusive voicemails, sent many more similar emails, twice appeared unannounced at JD’s residence, peeped into her bedroom window, confronted her in the law library, and blocked her entry into her car, among many other things – enjoy no protection...
Put simply, Respondent engaged in - and continues to engage in - a scorched earth campaign of revenge in the wake of being dumped by JD seven years ago, in March 2008....
Most disturbingly, despite the entreaties of JD and several others, Respondent simply has refused to take "no" for an answer.
Respondent’s repugnant pattern of behavior and utter lack of remorse with respect to the events involving JD, his deceitful responses and lack of candor toward the Commission, his neglect involving DS’s appeal, his inability or unwillingness to appreciate the wrongfulness of his misconduct, and his propensity throughout to shift blame to others and see himself as the victim, all lead us unhesitatingly to conclude that disbarment is warranted and that Respondent’s privilege to practice law should permanently be revoked.
He already was suspended for CLE non-compliance. (Mike Frisch)