Thursday, June 3, 2021
The New Jersey Supreme Court imposed a censure of an attorney, rejecting the proposed three-month suspension by a majority of its Disciplinary Review Board.
The sanction arose from an interaction between the attorney and a 17 year old after the attorney admittedly drove the wrong way on a one-way street on his way to visit his parents as described by the DRB.
Their accounts of what occurred were wildly varying but part of the encounter was captured on video
A cell phone video captured a portion of the fight and the ensuing conversations. When the altercation concluded, respondent directed AG to wait for the police, because he wanted AG to pay for the damage to his mother’s car. Because respondent believed AG intended to flee the scene, he told AG, “I’ll fucking hunt you down. I’ll find you.” Respondent also said, “I am on the municipal court council committee. You know what I am? I am an official fucking member of this town. So, you know what that means? You just assaulted a member of the town.” He added that he would bring “the whole fucking town, the police force, [and] the mayor” as witnesses to court and “you’re going to [the juvenile detention center] homeboy.” Respondent, however, was not a member of the municipal court committee at that time. He claimed that, in 2003, about twelve years prior to this incident, he was selected to be on the committee, but never attended a meeting, contributed to the committee, or considered himself part of the committee.
In addition to the events captured on the video, AG reported to the police that respondent threatened, “I will kill you. I will fucking shoot you. I will stab and kill you.” Respondent admitted having threatened AG, but denied that he threatened to kill him. Rather, he claimed he said, “you’re going to pay for this,” “I am going to find you,” and that AG was “going to be fucked.” AG maintained that, because respondent knew where he lived, he was frightened that respondent would harm him or his family, given that respondent had just assaulted him and had threatened to find and kill him.
Respondent was charged
As a result of the altercation with AG, respondent was charged with aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(7), and terroristic threats, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3(a). He also received tickets for careless driving and for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. AG was not charged with any offense. On December 9, 2015, respondent was admitted into the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI), without an admission of guilt. On January 10, 2017, he completed PTI, including required anger management courses, and the criminal complaint was dismissed. In January 2019, respondent paid $75,000 to settle a civil lawsuit that AG had filed against him.
The DRB surveyed the lamentably extensive number of similar prior cases involving Garden State lawyers and concluded
In aggravation, respondent assaulted a teenage boy, bullied him afterward by claiming influence over the police and municipal court in town, and, as of the date of oral argument before us, appears to refuse to accept responsibility for his role in the matter, including his repeated denial that he struck or otherwise attacked AG, when the evidence points to the contrary.
In mitigation, respondent has no history of discipline in nineteen years at the bar and has exhibited a level of cooperation throughout the disciplinary process, including his stipulation to many of the facts. In our view, however, this mitigation does not outweigh the aggravating factors.
Four DRB members favored a three-month suspension; three voted for a censure.
The court went with censure. (Mike Frisch)