Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Restored Trust

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reinstated a Petitioner disbarred in 2014.

During his divorce he was subject to an order of protection

On July 22, 2008, Petitioner was charged with violating the PFA by making approximately 70 to 90 unauthorized telephone calls to Ms. Halfpenny over the course of a five-day period between July 9, 2008 and July 14, 2008, in a criminal case captioned: Commonwealth v. John Halfpenny, MC-51-CR-0036787-2008. Joint Stipulation at ¶ 8.

Petitioner was charged with violating the PFA a second time after having unauthorized contact with Ms. Halfpenny on August 24, 2008, in a criminal case captioned: Commonwealth v. John Halfpenny, MC-51-CR-0048155-2008. These charges were filed on September 24, 2008, after Petitioner was charged in the matter described below. Joint Stipulation at ¶ 9.

On September 14, 2008, Petitioner was arrested and charged with attempted aggravated assault (which the prosecution withdrew on or about September 19, 2008), attempted burglary, criminal trespass, stalking, possessing an instrument of crime, terroristic threats, simple assault (which the prosecution withdrew on or about September 19, 2008), recklessly endangering another person (which the prosecution withdrew on or about September 19, 2008), violation of a protective order, and harassment in an incident in which Ms. Halfpenny was the complainant in a criminal case captioned: Commonwealth v. John Halfpenny, CP-51-CR-0011907-2008. Joint Stipulation at ¶ 10.

Penalty

On January 23, 2009, Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi sentenced Petitioner to a total combined sentence of 25 months to 50 months of incarceration, to be followed by a consecutive 17 years of probation.

Then

On October 15, 2009, while incarcerated at State Correctional Institution (“SCI”) Camp Hill, Petitioner was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and unlawful use of a communication facility for conduct that occurred on January 14, 2007 but was not reported to the police until March 25, 2009, in a criminal case captioned: Commonwealth v. John Halfpenny, CP-51-CR-0000170-2010. Joint Stipulation at ¶ 18.

The facts underlying the charges for the above-referenced case were that on January 14, 2007, Ms. Halfpenny discovered photographs depicting numerous images of child pornography in a guitar case belonging to Petitioner. In a subsequent letter to Ms. Halfpenny, Petitioner admitted to downloading the images from their home computer. Ms. Halfpenny did not report the incident to police until more than two years later on March 25, 2009, and Petitioner was subsequently charged. Petitioner was in custody serving the sentence imposed on him by Judge DeFino-Nastasi at the time of his arrest on the new charges. Joint Stipulation at ¶ 19.

Petitioner testified at the reinstatement hearing as to the circumstances of his possession of child pornography, which occurred prior to the attempted burglary matter. Petitioner and his former wife were still married but the marriage was disintegrating. One night, Petitioner was surfing the internet for pornography, followed a link that led to a child pornography site and looked at the site for approximately 30 minutes to an hour, and does not dispute that there were 60 images. Petitioner stated that the case was indefensible and reprehensible.

He served additional time as a result.

Reinstatement

While Petitioner’s breach of trust was great, the record demonstrates that he has devoted his lengthy period of disbarment to rehabilitative activities that have dissipated the impact of his original misconduct on the public trust. Petitioner approached the reinstatement process, starting with the filing of his Petition and Questionnaire through
his direct testimony, cross-examination and answers responsive to questions from the Committee, with the full candor and transparency necessary for the Board and the Court to assess his rehabilitative efforts. Petitioner clearly acknowledged his serious criminal actions and expressed sincere remorse and regret. Petitioner spent many years both
during and subsequent to his incarceration engaging in treatment and programs to understand his misconduct, address its underlying causes, and reinforce his progress. The evidence presented, particularly Dr. Orenstein’s testimony and Dr. Zakireh’s evaluation, demonstrates that Petitioner’s rehabilitation efforts were successful and he does not represent a danger to the public for recidivist criminal conduct. Petitioner’s commitment to rehabilitation was observed by his witnesses, who each shared their view that Petitioner is fit and ready to resume the practice of law. We conclude that after 14 years of disbarment, Petitioner’s reinstatement would not cause harm to the public or adversely affect the public’s perception of the legal profession.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2024/04/the-pennsylvania-supreme-court-has-reinstated-a-petitioner-disbarred-in-2014-during-his-divorce-he-was-subject-to-an-order.html

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