Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Lawyer Details How His Client Got Away With Murder"

The New York Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department censured an attorney for a confidentiality breach

In June 2017, following an investigation, petitioner filed a petition of charges alleging, in a single charge, that respondent violated three Rules of Professional Conduct as the result of his unauthorized disclosure of confidential client information to a news agency. Respondent substantively denied the allegations in his July 2017 answer. By motion returnable October 10, 2017, the parties now jointly move for the imposition of a public censure upon respondent upon the consent of the parties  (see Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters [22 NYCRR] § 1240.8 [a] [5]).

As required by Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters (22 NYCRR) § 1240.8 (a) (5) (i) (A), the parties have submitted a stipulation of facts. Consequently, it is undisputed that respondent publicly revealed confidential client information about a deceased former client which was "protected by the attorney client relationship." In compliance with Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters (22 NYCRR) § 1240.8 (a) (5) (i) (B), respondent has also submitted an affidavit in which he has conditionally admitted the relevant facts, and that those admitted facts establish that he knowingly revealed confidential client information, which conduct adversely reflected upon his fitness as a lawyer and was prejudicial to the administration of justice, all in contravention of Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rules 1.6 (a), 8.4 (d) and (h)...

As to mitigation, respondent expresses his remorse and regret for any anguish suffered by his former client's family due to his improvident and improper remarks. Further mitigating factors presented include a recitation of respondent's various pro bono representations and his longstanding history of community and charitable activities.

The order does not identify the deceased former client but this report  from Spectrum News under the header Lawyer Details How His Client Got Away With Murder may be the case

Twenty-six years ago the community was gripped by the case of a well-known doctor, Dr. Maurice Heath, accused of killing his wife of 44 years by injecting her with a high dose of morphine.

“He was from the Bible belt and he lived his life as an esteemed doctor,” said Heath’s former lawyer John Parrinello. “He was the old-fashioned doctor that went on house calls with his little black bag and so his world collapsed.”

While Heath claimed his wife had been suffering from heart pain, others suspected he killed her to be with Shirley Davidson, his mistress from his office. But the case didn’t even finish trial since his attorney John Parrinello was able to get the key piece of evidence, Jean Heath’s blood sample, thrown out.

“In this case, the vial of blood traveled throughout the hospital,” Parrinello said. “They must have called 20 witnesses to try to track the vial, which they were unable to do because it’s a fungible item. In other words, it’s subject to change or it’s subject to somebody tampering with it.”

Now that Heath has died however, Parrinello is giving an inside look at the man he represented.

“Because Dr. Heath is deceased I feel at liberty to disclose what everybody knew or believed,” Parrinello said. “But in the final analysis, yes, Dr. Heath had injected his wife with a fatal dose of morphine. It was a tragedy for everybody and the entire family, but it is what it is.”

While representing him, Parrinello said he gave Heath a polygraph, in which Heath failed. The next day he said Heath tried to commit suicide. Parrinello said he confronted his client in the hospital afterward.

“I walked into his room privately and I looked down at him and I said ‘Maurice you promised me you were okay’ and he lifted his mask and said ‘I lied,’” Parrinello said. “Which that showed the intensity of this man of why he did what he did to his wife, why he tried to commit suicide.”

The last time Parrinello said he saw Heath was the day he walked out of the courthouse. Heath moved to Texas with his new wife Shirley Davidson. While Parrinello said it depends on the case whether or not he asks his client the truth, in this case, with the polygraph, the results, and the conversations he had with Heath, he said he just knew.

“Sometimes you have to know the answer, sometimes you don’t have to know the answers, but in this case I knew with that blood sample that he would have spent the rest of his life in jail,” Parrinello said.

Parrinello said it does not bother him that Heath walked away a free man because the burden of proof is on the prosecutor.

The client died in late 2015 as reported by Democrat & Chronicle and quoted him.

“I’m happy to report that he paid his fee and then he and Shirley, his secretary, completely disappeared,” Parrinello said Tuesday. The Rochester lawyer said he’d understood that Dr. Heath and Davidson — who married while Dr. Heath awaited trial — had gone south, but he’d not heard from them again.

Rochester  reported on unrelated 2012 allegations involving the attorney.

More from the same source on a federal court suspension

Longtime criminal defense attorney John Parrinello has been suspended from practicing law in federal courts for 180 days for unprofessional conduct. Federal court judge Frank Geraci issued the order on Friday.

The suspension stems from two incidents. The first happened in November 2012, when Parrinello was upset his client was not brought to the courthouse in time for him to discuss a case before an appearance before the judge. Parrinello allegedly said to the deputy marshals, “You (expletive) can't even get him here on time...You place him in (expletive) Steuben County which makes it difficult for me.”

Informed of Parrinello's outburst, Judge Marian Payson refused to take the bench. Parrinello, angry that the case didn't proceed that day, sent an email to the judge saying the presumption of innocence is nothing more than “lip service and poppycock.”

The court issued an “order of private reprimand” over the incident. Parrinello admitted he was out of line and promised it would never happen again.

On August 25, 2015, Parrinello was representing one of several defendants who were part of the same case. Before his client was called, Parrinello objected to statements made by Assistant U.S. Attorney Everardo Rodriguez from the courtroom gallery. Eventually, Parrinello and Rodriguez came face to face. Deputy marshals tried to separate them. Parrinello is accused of saying, “Big deal you got badges on...I'll move when I want to.”

Rodriguez called Parrinello an “old man.” Parrinello allegedly responded, “I'll show him who is an old man because I'll knock him on his ass.”

In his suspension order, Geraci said the incident “caused a significant disruption in the courtroom” and created a dangerous situation, as deputies were diverted from guarding multiple defendants.

Parrinello sent a letter to the court later saying in part, “I am sorry I let him get under my skin.”

Geraci wrote Parrinello “has great difficulty controlling his emotions in the courthouse...The court recognizes that in our adversarial system, interactions between counsel – especially in the courtroom – can occasionally become heated. Acting out toward opposing counsel in a disrespectful and hostile manner is, however, never acceptable. Such conduct undermines the dignity and integrity of proceedings in our courts.”

Parrinello, who ran for mayor in 2005, is facing a charge of patronizing a prostitute in the Town of Gates.

Reached by phone, Parrinello told News 8 he is still handling his cases in state courts and his son, Matthew, will handle his cases in federal courts. Parrinello said the situation in Gates and the federal suspension are "stressful."

Democrat & Chronicle had the story of his 2016 reinstatement

Rochester lawyer John Parrinello, who was suspended from practice after arguing in a federal court with attorneys and deputies with the U.S. Marshals Service, has been reinstated to practice in state court.

Parrinello, 77, was suspended for six months because of the incident in federal court, an angry exchange with a federal prosecutor and court security that was determined to be so unprofessional it warranted discipline.

The six months since the discipline is now complete and the regional appellate court, which oversees disciplinary matters, reinstated Parrinello's state court practice this week.

"I am looking forward to returning to the full practice of law before the state and federal courts with the same vigor and dedication in keeping with the rules governing professionalism and ethics," Parrinello said in a news release.

Parrinello has also asked to be allowed to resume his federal court practice. The disciplinary process requires a formal request.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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