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Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 34239
Attorney Name Bonavita, Thomas James
DBP Docket No. 189 DB 2004
Supreme Court Docket No. 973 DD No. 3
County Warren
Disciplinary Counsel Mark G. Weitzman
Counsel for Respondent Craig E. Simpson
Decision Date 2005-12-16
Effective Date 2004-12-17
Case Digest In McKean County, Respondent entered a plea of "no contest" to the criminal charge of Indecent Assault, a misdemeanor of the second degree punishable by a maximum period of imprisonment of 2 years. On July 29, 2004, Respondent was sentenced, in part, to house arrest for not less than 60 days. On December 17, 2004, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered, based upon the conviction, that Respondent be placed on temporary suspension pursuant to Rule 214(d)(2), Pa.R.D.E. The Information, Court Order as to Respondent's plea, and the Court Order as to Respondent's sentence were admitted into evidence at the disciplinary hearing as conclusive evidence of Respondent's commission of the crime of Indecent Assault. However, Respondent disputed the victim's claim that Respondent had undertaken to represent her and her factual account of Respondent's indecent contacts with her, which occurred at her home during the afternoon of February 18, 2003, over a period of a half an hour. Respondent had volunteered to meet with her there on the pretext of her signing a paper regarding her legal matters. Because there were no specific admissions by Respondent during the plea colloquy as to his indecent contacts with the victim, we presented the victim and the investigating police officer as witnesses. Respondent testified on his own behalf and presented the testimony of three witnesses regarding his character. The Hearing Committee found that the victim had retained Respondent to represent her in a custody matter at a January 2003 consultation and Respondent had several indecent contacts with her without her consent on February 18, 2003. The Hearing Committee found that Respondent's character witnesses did not amount to evidence of mitigating circumstances and that several aggravating factors existed, including the fact that the indecent contact occurred while Respondent was meeting with the victim for the purpose of providing her with legal assistance and advice, and in answering the disciplinary charges and in response to the criminal charges, Respondent offered no explanation, rationalization or justification for his conduct. The Hearing Committee recommended, based on the underlying facts, the aggravating circumstances, and the applicable case law, that Respondent be suspended for a period of 36 months retroactive to December 17, 2004, the date the Supreme Court ordered that he be placed on temporary suspension. After the Hearing Committee Report was issued, Disciplinary Counsel and Respondent, through counsel, filed a Joint Petition In Support Of Discipline On Consent with the Secretary of the Disciplinary Board, recommending that the appropriate discipline for Respondent's misconduct was a suspension for a period of 36 months retroactive to December 17, 2004, as recommended by the Hearing Committee. A Three-Member Panel of the Disciplinary Board approved the Petition and recommended to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that the Joint Petition be granted. By Order dated December 16, 2005, the Supreme Court granted the Joint Petition and suspended Respondent for a period of 3 years retroactive to December 17, 2004.
Rule Violation(s) 203(b)(1), Pa.R.D.E.
Discipline Imposed 3 yr. suspension retroactive to December 17, 2004.
Points of Law A lawyer's conviction for Indecent Assault is a "serious crime" and based upon the extent of the indecent contacts, disciplinary case law, and any aggravating and mitigating circumstances, may result in a suspension for 3 years.
Report/Opinion Download