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Court Decides if Attorney Charged with Domestic Violence Should be Sanctioned

In August 2005, New Jersey, respondent engaged in a physical altercation with his wife that took place in March of that year. Respondent pleaded guilty to the crime of simple assault, for which he was sentenced to one year of probation. As a result of that conviction, respondent (who is also a member of the New Jersey bar) was censured by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said that on December 2007, respondent had another instance in which he struck his wife while they were on vacation in the Caribbean.

In 2008, Virginia, respondent was involved in a domestic dispute with his wife in March of that year. The altercation culminated in respondent striking and restraining his wife, causing physical injuries to her that required medical attention. Respondent was arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to the felony of unlawful wounding, in violation of the Virginia Code, for which he was sentenced to three years of incarceration with all but 12 months suspended, subject to certain conditions. Upon release from prison in February 2009, respondent was placed on probation until February 2011. An order of protection was also issued, which directed respondent to stay away from his wife and to make restitution to her in the amount of $2,283.43. The Virginia conviction gave rise to the instant proceeding.

Respondent was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the First Judicial Department on 12 May 1975. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said that although he has not maintained an office for the practice of law in New York during the period relevant to this matter, he has maintained his registration with the New York bar. At the time of the events in question, respondent was employed by a telecommunications company as an in-house counsel in Washington, D.C., and resided in Virginia.

By order entered 6 October 2009, the herein Court, upon the motion of the Departmental Disciplinary Committee: (1) determined that the Virginia felony of unlawful wounding, of which respondent was convicted in 2008, is a “serious crime” as defined by Judiciary Law; (2) based on the Virginia conviction, immediately suspended respondent from the practice of law pursuant to Judiciary Law; and (3) directed respondent to show cause before a Hearing Panel of the Committee, pursuant to Judiciary Law, why a final order of censure, suspension or disbarment should not be made against him.

On 20 January 2010, and 17 February 2010, proceedings were held before a Hearing Panel pursuant to the aforesaid order.

The sole issue before the Panel was the appropriate sanction to be imposed on respondent based on his 2008 conviction of a serious crime in another state.

The Committee presented no witnesses. Respondent testified on his own behalf and presented the testimony of his psychiatrist. A Nassau Sex Crimes Lawyer said the Hearing Panel noted the following as factors, in its report, tending to mitigate respondent’s culpability: (1) respondent’s long and exemplary work record and attestation to his good character from colleagues; (2) the connection of respondent’s misconduct to a dysfunctional marital relationship that is now coming to an end through divorce; (3) the initiation of the altercation by respondent’s wife; (4) the causal connection between respondent’s abusive conduct and his intermittent explosive syndrome, a recognized psychological condition for which he is being treated, and was being treated before the incident; (5) the confinement of respondent’s physical aggression to his personal life; and (6) the substantial criminal sanctions, including a period of imprisonment, that have already been imposed on respondent. Also, the Hearing Panel noted, as an aggravating factor, respondent’s history of domestic violence before the March 2008 incident.

Accordingly, taking into account the aforesaid mitigating and aggravating factors, the Hearing Panel majority, recommended that respondent receive a suspension of 30 months effective as of 6 October 2009, the date his interim suspension commenced.

The Committee now seeks an order, confirming the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the Hearing Panel in this matter and suspending respondent from the practice of law for not less than 30 months effective the date of this Court’s interim suspension order. A Queens Sex Crime Lawyer said the respondent cross moves to confirm the Hearing Panel’s report as to the recommended sanction and as to most of the findings of fact and conclusions of law but to disaffirm certain findings and conclusions.

The court finds, in the exercise of its discretion, that respondent should be suspended for 36 months in view of the gravity of the offense of domestic violence and his prior history of similar misconduct. While respondent may not have engaged in physical aggression in his professional life, it cannot be overemphasized that his abuse of his spouse reflects adversely on his fitness to practice law.

The Court has considered and rejected the respondent’s cross motion that certain portions of the Hearing Panel’s report be disaffirmed.

Accordingly, the herein Court grants the Committee’s motion, affirming only in part the Panel’s findings of fact and conclusions of law and; respondent suspended from the practice in the State of New York for a period of 36 months effective 6 October 2009, and until further order of the Court.

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