Thursday, December 8, 2022

Former MPPA General Counsel Disbarred

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has disbarred an attorney convicted of two offenses under local law

The Board on Professional Responsibility recommends that respondent be disbarred after he pled guilty to felony third-degree sexual abuse (force), D.C. Code § 22-3004(1), and blackmail, D.C. Code § 22-3252. The Board found that the felony of third-degree sexual abuse (force) was an offense involving moral turpitude per se and, alternatively, that the undisputed facts underlying the offenses here involved moral turpitude. Neither Respondent nor Disciplinary Counsel has filed an exception to the Board’s Report and Recommendation. Respondent filed his D.C. Bar R. XI § 14(g) affidavit on October 24, 2022.

While disbarment is required if the offense involves moral turpitude per se

because we find the underlying facts constitute an offense involving moral turpitude, we express no opinion on the Board’s analysis of whether the offenses involve moral turpitude per se.

The Board on Professional Responsibility on the felony sex offense (report linked here)

we conclude that the least culpable offender may be a man who hugs another for the purpose of overcoming the victim’s resistance, enabling the offender to touch his clothed penis against the victim, or a woman who hugs another for the purpose of overcoming the victim’s resistance, enabling the offender to touch her clothed breasts against the victim, where each offender has the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass or degrade. We further conclude that the use of force to abuse, humiliate, harass or degrade another through sexual contact “offends the generally accepted moral code of mankind,” and thus, the least culpable offender convicted under § 3004(1) has committed a crime of moral turpitude per se.

And on blackmail

The only intent required to violate § 22-3252(a)(2) is the intent to take property from another, or cause the other to do something or refrain from doing something. The latter, at least, is not inherently corrupt or dishonest. For example, a parent who tells a teen to clean their room or else the parent will disclose an embarrassing fact to the teen’s friends has violated the plain language of the statute, without being dishonest or corrupt. We do not expect that the parent in this example would ever be prosecuted, but unfortunately, the least culpable offender analysis does not permit us to consider only conduct that we would reasonably expect to be prosecuted. And that is with good reason, because once the Court determines that a crime involves moral turpitude per se, the discipline system never again considers the actual facts of the respondent’s offense. In such a system, we should not try to predict whether prosecutors would ever charge certain conduct as a crime, and we should limit our analysis to the hypothetical least culpable offender who could be convicted under the plain language of the statute at issue. We conclude that the least culpable offender who may be convicted under § 22-3252(a)(2) has not engaged in conduct that is base, vile or depraved.

I fully understand the court's reluctance to endorse this analysis.

Deadline reported on the crimes

The former general counsel of the MPAASteven Fabrizio, was sentenced to 12 months in prison on Friday after pleading guilty last year to blackmail and third-degree sexual abuse.

District of Columbia Judge Marisa Demeo handed down a sentence of 30 months of incarceration, but suspended all but 12 months of that time on the condition that he complete three years of supervised probation, according to the U.S. Justice Department. He also will be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years following his release.

In 2019, Fabrizio was fired from the MPAA, which has since been renamed the Motion Picture Association, shortly after his arrest on charges that he blackmailed a woman he met through a dating website.

According to federal prosecutors, Fabrizio met the woman on Aug. 19, 2019, and they had consensual sex in exchange for $400 in cash. He sought to set up another meeting, but she declined. He then threatened to expose their arrangement to her employer, parents and landlord if she did not agree to have sex with him again. After further texts, the woman agreed to see him, but he sexually abused her, according to prosecutors. As he continued to text her, she then contacted D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. He was arrested on Aug. 21.

Fabrizio reached a plea agreement in July.

Before joining the MPAA in 2013, Fabrizio had been senior partner at Jenner & Block and was senior vice president of legal and business affairs at the Recording Industry Association of America.

(Mike Frisch)

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