Wednesday, November 29, 2023

It Sure Doesn't Taste Like Potato Chips

A divided Ohio Supreme Court has suspended an attorney who threw a Pringles can full of sh*t

Respondent, Jack Allen Blakeslee, of Caldwell, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0001005, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 1976.1 In a November 2022 complaint, relator, disciplinary counsel, charged Blakeslee with professional misconduct for throwing a feces-filled Pringles can into the parking lot of a victim-advocacy center involved in a capital-murder case in which Blakeslee was representing the defendant. Blakeslee waived a probable-cause determination and, in his answer, admitted many of relator’s factual allegations and the single alleged rule violation. The parties also submitted joint stipulations of fact, misconduct, and aggravating and mitigating factors.

After conducting a hearing, a panel of the Board of Professional Conduct issued a report finding by clear and convincing evidence that Blakeslee had committed the charged misconduct and recommending that we publicly reprimand him for that misconduct. The board adopted the panel’s findings and recommendation. For the reasons that follow, we adopt the board’s finding of misconduct but suspend Blakeslee from the practice of law for one year with six months stayed on the condition that he engage in no further misconduct.

The proof was in the pudding (can, actually)

The trial court scheduled another pretrial hearing in Wells’s case for November 30, 2021, at 8:30 a.m. Before leaving his home on the morning of that hearing, Blakeslee deposited his feces into an empty Pringles can. He then drove approximately 20 minutes from his home in Coal Ridge to Cambridge with the open can of feces. Between 8:10 and 8:15 a.m., Blakeslee turned his vehicle down an alley where the Haven of Hope parking lot is located, approximately two-tenths of a mile from the Guernsey County Common Pleas courthouse. A sign on the building at the entrance to the alley indicated “Haven of Hope Administrative Offices” above a bold arrow pointing down the alley. Surveillance video shows that Blakeslee slowed his vehicle as he initially passed Haven of Hope’s parking lot. He continued driving further down the alley, passing several other parking lots, before turning around. He slowed again as he passed Haven of Hope’s parking lot a second time, threw the Pringles can containing his feces into the lot, and then drove to the courthouse for the 8:30 a.m. pretrial hearing in Wells’s case.

Carpenter Wilkinson saw Blakeslee throw the can out his vehicle toward the Haven of Hope parking lot. After Blakeslee drove away, Carpenter Wilkson approached the item and discovered that it was a Pringles can containing what appeared to be human feces. She then left for the courthouse to attend Wells’s pretrial hearing. Upon arriving at the courthouse, she noticed that Blakeslee was also present for the hearing.

Later that day, after discussing the matter with a prosecutor assigned to the Wells case, Carpenter Wilkinson filed a report with the Cambridge Police Department. Thereafter, Blakeslee was charged with and pleaded guilty to minor misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and littering. He ultimately paid $248 in fines and court costs for those offenses.

A means of expression

During his disciplinary hearing, Blakeslee testified that he had engaged in similar misconduct on at least ten other occasions that year and that he randomly chose the locations where he deposited the Pringles cans containing his feces. He also specifically denied having any knowledge that the parking lot in question belonged to Haven of Hope when he threw the can from his vehicle on November 30, 2021.

Court majority

We acknowledge that Blakeslee does not appear to have harbored any animosity toward Carpenter Wilkinson, her colleagues, or their work as victim’s advocates. Nor did he intend to intimidate them. While the record demonstrates that Blakeslee regrets his misconduct, it also shows that he lacks sufficient insight into the origin of and motivation for his inappropriate behavior to effectuate positive change. We therefore reject the board’s assessment that there is no factual basis for concluding that the public needs to be protected from additional violations, and we conclude that the appropriate sanction for Blakeslee’s misconduct is a one-year suspension with six months stayed on the condition that he engage in no further misconduct.

A dissent would make the suspension longer but fully stayed

DEWINE, J., concurs in judgment only. FISCHER, J., concurs in part and dissents in part and would impose a two year suspension, all stayed, and two years of probation.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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