Illinois Hearing Board recommends disbarment for former Florida lawyer convicted of Florida felony crimes and federal crimes of tampering with and threatening witnesses who were members of his family

Hello everyone!  Happy 2013 and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss recent Illinois Disciplinary Hearing Board Report and Recommendation that a lawyer be disbarred after his conviction of multiple Florida criminal acts and for his federal conviction for threatening one witness (his then wife) and tampering with another witness (his son) while he was incarcerated.  The case is In re Vincent J. Krocka, No. 6198080, Commission No. 06 CH 73 (12/31/12).  The opinion is available online at: http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=10722.

According to the Illinois Board’s Report and Recommendation, a one-count disciplinary complaint was filed on October 5, 2006 charging the lawyer with committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer and failing to notify the Illinois disciplinary authorities of his conviction in writing within 30 days after the entry of the judgment of conviction.  On October 6, 2006, the lawyer was mailed a copy of the Complaint to Florida where he was incarcerated.  On October 24, 2006, a rule to show cause was issued to the lawyer which was enforced on December 14, 2006 and the lawyer was suspended from the practice of law, effective immediately and until further order of the Court.

On December 26, 2006, the lawyer filed an Answer to Complaint and a Motion to Stay the Proceeding and, on January 8, 2007, the proceedings were stayed pending the lawyer’s appeal of his conviction.  The stay was lifted on June 24, 2009 and the disciplinary authorities learned that the lawyer was convicted of subsequent criminal acts on March 6, 2009.  On July 22, 2009, a two-count First Amended Complaint was filed and the lawyer was served by regular mail. On August 4, 2009, the proceedings were again stayed until the lawyer’s appeal of the second conviction was completed.

On February 22, 2012, a Motion to Lift Stay Order was granted and, on April 24, 2012, the lawyer’s oral motion to reinstate the stay was denied.  An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for July 20, 2012; however, on June 18, 2012, the lawyer filed a Motion for Continuance, a Motion for Leave to Conduct Discovery, a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing and a Motion to Stay the Proceedings pending the Outcome of the his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.  On June 21, 2012, a pre-hearing conference was held in which the lawyer participated and the motions were denied.  A Motion to Deem the Allegations of the First Amended Complaint Admitted was filed, the hearing was continued, and the lawyer was given until July 12, 2012 to file an Answer to the First Amended Complaint.  At the June 21, 2012 pre-hearing conference, the lawyer also stated he did not intend to participate in the July 20, 2012 hearing.  The lawyer then failed to file an Answer to the First Amended Complaint or any motion to either stay or continue the hearing by July 12, 2012.  The Motion to Deem the Allegations of the First Amended Complaint Admitted was then granted.

Count 1 alleged that on April 5, 2004, the lawyer barricaded himself in his home in Florida with his two sons, one of whom was under the age of eighteen.  After law enforcement arrived, the lawyer fired a gun at least six times from a second-story window, almost hitting a law enforcement officer and damaging a police vehicle.  The lawyer prevented his sons from leaving his home; however, both eventually escaped the home unharmed.  On April 27, 2004, the lawyer was charged in a four-count information filed in the Florida Thirteenth Judicial Circuit  On April 19, 2006, after a jury trial, the lawyer was convicted on charges of child neglect and criminal mischief and was sentenced to five years in prison on each charge consecutively.  The lawyer’s appeal of the conviction was denied and he failed to notify the Illinois disciplinary authorities of the conviction on or before May 10, 2006 as required under Illinois disciplinary rules.

Count 2 alleged that between June 8, 2005 and June 2, 2008, while the lawyer was incarcerated pursuant to the Florida convictions, he wrote and mailed at least thirteen (13) letters to his then wife which contained threats and attempts to exhort her, and also made statements intended to prevent her from testifying against him.  The lawyer also wrote and mailed a letter to his son in which he attempted to persuade him to prevent his then wife from testifying against him.  On April 5, 2006, the lawyer was charged with the offenses of sending threatening mail and sending extortionate threatening mail, in violation federal law in a seventeen (17) count indictment filed in the United States Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, in a matter docketed.  On June 19, 2008, the lawyer was charged in a superseding indictment with twenty five (25) counts of sending threatening mail and sending extortionate threatening mail and witness tampering, in violation of federal law.

On March 6, 2009, following a jury trial, the lawyer was convicted of four counts of sending threatening mail, four counts of sending extortionate threatening mail, and six counts of witness tampering.  On the same day, March 6, 2009, the lawyer was sentenced to concurrent prison sentences of 60 months on Counts 5, 10, 11, and 15; 121 months on Counts 13, 14, 16, and 17; and 120 months imprisonment on Counts 20-25 and consecutive to the Florida sentence.  The lawyer was also sentenced to 36 months of supervised release after the prison sentence with multiple conditions.  The lawyer’s appeal was denied and he failed to notify the Illinois disciplinary authorities of  the conviction on or before April 6, 2009 as required under Illinois disciplinary rules.

The allegations of the complaint were deemed admitted due to the lawyer’s failure to answer and the Report found clear and convincing evidence that the lawyer violated the Illinois disciplinary rules by committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(3) of the Illinois disciplinary rules (Counts I and II); engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois disciplinary rules (Counts I and II); and failing to notify the Administrator of his conviction in writing within 30 days after the entry of the judgment of conviction, in violation of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 761(a) (Counts I and II).

After being charged in Illinois in 2002 with falsifying a medical report he was required to complete in connection with his employment as a Chicago police officer; directing an obscene epithet toward an attorney representing the City of Chicago in litigation involving the lawyer; and making a death threat to another lawyer for the City in that same litigation matter, the lawyer filed a motion for disability inactive status and, on September 22, 2003, the Court granted the motion and transferred the lawyer to disability inactive status until further order of the Court.  On October 29, 2009, the lawyer was disbarred in Florida for the conduct which formed the basis for the state and federal convictions and the Illinois proceeding.  On October 21, 2010, the lawyer was disbarred in the District of Columbia for the conduct which formed the basis for the state and federal convictions and the Illinois proceeding.

With regard to discipline, the Board found that the lawyer “has a well-established pattern of making serious threats of bodily harm to others as well as an inability to adhere to the law. Finally, Respondent’s failure to participate in the disciplinary proceedings demonstrated a serious disregard for the disciplinary process. (citation omitted). Given the egregious nature of Respondent’s misconduct, along with aggravating evidence and analogous case-law, this panel believes that disbarment is necessary in order to protect the public.”

Bottom line:  This case involves some apparently very bizarre behavior by a lawyer who was licensed in Florida, Illinois, and D.C. and shows that the wheels of discipline, particularly, reciprocal discipline, may grind slowly.  The crimes prosecuted by the State of Florida occurred in 2004 and the lawyer was convicted on the felony charges in 2006 (and he was not convicted on the federal charges in March 2009 after being charged in 2006); however, he was not disbarred in Florida until October 2009, in D.C. in October 2010, and Illinois in 2013 (assuming that the Illinois Supreme Court upholds the Board’s Report and Recommendation).  Notwithstanding the length of the process, the lawyer has been suspended from practice in Illinois effective on December 14, 2006.

Be careful out there!

Disclaimer: this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, joe corsmeier, Lawyer conduct adversely affecting fitness to practice, Lawyer criminal conduct, Lawyer disbarment, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer sanctions

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