Lawyer who talked to Tressel was a former OSU Walk-on

Submitted by Seth9 on March 9th, 2011 at 7:18 PM

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the lawyer who contacted Tressel was former-OSU walk-on Chris Cicero, whose time at OSU overlapped with Tressl's time as an assistant at OSU. Cicero, apparently, has a history of unethical conduct, which is not remotely surprising as he probably should not have been talking to Tressel in the first place.

There are a lot of ways to interpret this information. But even if we take Tressel's word that his concern was for maintaining confidentiality, it appears that Tressel chose to keep quiet to protect his former player at the expense of the institution and with clear disregard for the rules.  Now, while this is in some way understandable from a personal standpoint, it is completely indfensible from a professional one.

Comments

Section 1

March 9th, 2011 at 7:32 PM ^

I'm curious; what part of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct do you think he violated?

I'm not doubting that a rule may have been violated.  And it would not be hard, with an attorney's name, to figure out who he represented, and if he violated a client's confidence.

But really, what it seems that he revealed was information that was already being developed by the U.S. Marshalls' office in connection with the tax case, and a subsequently-related FBI investigation.  He told Tressel what the authorities were likely to (and probably did) publish in a charging document.

I honestly don't know; but is it so clear that an ethical violation occurred?

justingoblue

March 9th, 2011 at 7:38 PM ^

Yes, very obvious. If he told Tressel anything he heard in a client situation, he was legally barred from sharing it with anyone without the clients consent. The punishments are also very severe for lawyers who do this; as in, bye-bye law license.

justingoblue

March 9th, 2011 at 7:46 PM ^

Good to know. I just honestly think this is a clear-cut case, as long as he got his information from his position as a defense attorney. I could be wrong, I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding of attorney-client is that it's pretty black and white for cases like this. Some of the other lawyer posters were backing that last night as well.

Geaux_Blue

March 9th, 2011 at 9:51 PM ^

if I was a practicing attorney on the other end of litigation and went up against Section 1, I'd admit Free Press articles tangentially related to the case as Evidence that the court should consider to be Clear-cut Proof and watch the Explosion. Rince, Lather, Repeat.

"Your honor, in order to provide the jury a clear-cut understanding of what moral activities entail and show my client to not be a murderer, I would like to introduce a piece by Mr. Michael Rosenberg..." 

justingoblue

March 9th, 2011 at 8:14 PM ^

I went digging around, and from the database at Cornell Law, they claim almost no differences between Ohio Attorney-Client Privilege and the ABA Model Rule 1.6.

I'm sure you know the exceptions better than I do from a short reading, but I can't find one that fits this case.

The guy was in his office, presumably as a client or seeking to become a client, and Cicero divulged information learned from that meeting to Tressel while claiming it was confidential. That's why I thought (and think) that it's a pretty clear that this was unethical.

03 Blue 07

March 9th, 2011 at 8:19 PM ^

I've only been practicing since 2007, but I, like Section 1, am also a bit interested in the answer to the question. Here's a hypothetical: Cicero had no attorney-client relationship with Tattoo parlor owner. Then what? To me, he's not in trouble. Seriously. And I don't mean "urr, uhh, interfered with an FBI investigation by telling Tressel" or whatever. I am genuinely curious: if Tattoo guy isn't Cicero's client, I can't see a violation of an ABA model rule. Even as a lawyer, I'm still allowed to tell friends of mine if I hear something shady at the courthouse about, say, their wife. Now, if I hear it from a client, it's different. . . But we have no proof that Cicero was privy to any privileged information. Just because it was juicy doesn't mean it was privileged.

03 Blue 07

March 9th, 2011 at 8:32 PM ^

I hear you. And that is interesting. I'd have to re-read the emails (I read them last night, and this morning, but haven't re-read them). If what you say is true, though, it definitely makes it murky. If the "client" (tattoo guy) thought it was privileged and thought that they had an attorney-client relationship, and an objective observer would have thought so, then I'd tend to agree with you.

Section 1

March 9th, 2011 at 8:49 PM ^

I started out just asking the basic question(s).  Disbarment (suspension, other discipline) is a pretty serious matter, and I'd just like to have all the facts first.

Another matter -- to what end did any breach of confidence go?  In other words, while no breach of a privilege is acceptable, was the client to whom the privilege was owed adversely affected?  Again it is only a question on my part.  But this appears to be a case in which the attorney didn't intend to subvert his client's interest (although the language might have been sort of choice, if indeed he was counsel for the "definite drug dealer") and probably didn't actually subvert his interest.  (Although it would be a WHOLE different matter if the emails were admitted as evidence in any drug trial... that would be a tutorial on hearsay, however.) 

justingoblue

March 9th, 2011 at 8:57 PM ^

I got excited and said those things, just like I was hoping they'd fire Tressel with cause. It feels good to say that the worst things should happen to shady characters, which it sounds to me like this guy is.

As soon as I read that one of the factors determining the ethical nature of his action was damage, I knew I would rightly get hammered for saying he deserves the worst. You're right that Rife probably didn't incur any significant damage as a result of Cicero sending this to Tressel; or, at least, I can't think of any. The only thing remaining is that he is shady, and unless it comes out that Rife was a personal friend that pissed him off in some way, I'll continue to believe that Cicero is shady.

Boknowsall

March 9th, 2011 at 9:15 PM ^

Then why did  you ask.  It is quite obvious to even the stupid people.  Oh, I get it, to be a dick.  Good thing you have been chasing ambulances since 1984, and not doing real law.  What a prick.  What part of telling a person not associated with a case facts about the case is difficult to understand?  Man you law types are pretty smart.  No wonder why I have negative points, can't tolerate assholes like you.

08mms

March 10th, 2011 at 12:41 AM ^

Having recently survived the MPRE, I can say none of the ethics rule are simple enough they aren't worth checking with the rules and/or community of people where someone else might have the time to look it up.  I don't know what "real law" you are referring to, but i've learned to instantly dislike people who use "ambulance chaser" outside of clever jokes.

Blue In NC

March 9th, 2011 at 9:21 PM ^

Then I am puzzled as to why you do not see a problem.  I think the emails showed that he relayed some info or statements to Tressel after meeting with his client.  While I understand we are talking about Ohio, I can't imagine that's not in violation of an ethical rule.

Geaux_Blue

March 9th, 2011 at 7:43 PM ^

this is something 80% of people are not realizing/reading

he NEVER says he's involved in the investigation and likely wasn't. further, he likely does not know ANYONE involved. the first 4 sentences clearly show he heard this from POLICE FRIENDS. information was leaked out to him by them. there is zero attorney client issues in this. he used his resources of being familiar with cops to leak info to his favorite coach. 

when you realize this (which it took me a while to), you realize just how obvious it is that Tressel's story was created retroactively. because he is completely outside of the investigation, there would be zero need for confidentiality, etc. 

Geaux_Blue

March 9th, 2011 at 8:13 PM ^

"A lot of my friends are in law enforcement. The Federal Government raided the house of _____ yesterday. His name is Edward "Eddie" Rife."

 

Why would he include the fact he has friends in law enforcement if he wasn't using them as the source of his info? He reveals extensive details about what they capture, which would likely be what the police would be notified of. If he was an attorney involved in the process, his law enforcement friends wouldn't be relevant. It'd be "I'm involved in a case" etc.

justingoblue

March 9th, 2011 at 8:16 PM ^

He also claims the defendant in the case was in his office and divulged confidential information in the next email.

"I had Eddie Rife in my office for an hour and a half last night"

and the next line:

"What I tell you is confidential."

Geaux_Blue

March 9th, 2011 at 8:27 PM ^

even in the most vague manner until two weeks later. first email, that implies ZERO need for confidentiality, took place on April 2. why was no action taken?

 

I had never noticed the time discrepancy. to me that implies phone/in person contact and that emails were lazy routes used mildly.

Geaux_Blue

March 9th, 2011 at 8:32 PM ^

that MAYBE was an excuse 2 weeks after the original email. the original email is completely actionable in full. no reason he couldn't. at all. rumor? send it anyways and see where things turn out. the priviledged info ends up being nothing more than sentencing possibilities - he's just a shitty friend until that point by ratting out what his cop friends told him. re-read the first email and explain why he couldn't report that. not until the 15th or so does the lawyer tread into the grey.

justingoblue

March 9th, 2011 at 8:40 PM ^

If you're talking about Tressel reporting it, he should have. If you're talking about Cicero, then it should be fine. Why couldn't he recount a story? What I'm saying is that Rife went into Cicero's office seeking legal advice, which is presumably how Cicero gained this information that he shared with Tressel. From my understanding, that is highly unethical.

It's not just the sentencing though. Rife is the one who told him about the money distributed to players, the cops only told him that Rife had the memorabilia in his possession.

Geaux_Blue

March 9th, 2011 at 8:57 PM ^

is Tressel's timeline is fine from email 2 on. email 1 casts it completely in the shitter.

Timeline:

Cicero finds out from cops about Rife's involvement with players.
Cicero emails Tressel.
Tressel emails Cicero.
????
Rife visits Cicero and gives more info on stuff
Cicero emails Tressel
Tressel emails Cicero
?????
Rife visits Cicero and estsablishes concrete privilege asking about sentencing advice
Cicero emails Tressel

 

Blue in Yarmouth

March 10th, 2011 at 11:02 AM ^

you are missing what he is trying to say. You were arguing that what the Lawyer did was a breach of confidentiality which it may have been at some point, but not initially. He is saying that from the emails, it doesn't appear to have become an attorney-client relationship until after the initial email.

His main point was Tressel can not use the "confidential" excuse because when he first received this information (April 2nd)  nothing was confidential information that was attained in an attorney-client relationship. It was information that the Lawyer attained as a result of having friends in law enforcement who had loose lips.

Sometime after that first email the guy seems to have become a client by asking for legal advise, but that was long after the first email when Tressel was told of the issue with his players. This is why GeauxBlue is saying he could have taken action right away without any issue surrounding confidentiality.

That is what I am getting from your conversation anyway.

justingoblue

March 10th, 2011 at 11:19 AM ^

My conversation with Geaux here was also taking place down the thread at the same time. Yes, I think Tressel is full of shit with his excuses, he could have said anything in the emails and not been in trouble. What I was saying is that after the second email, this guy seems to have entered into a client relationship with this laywer and the lawyer shouldn't have disclosed the rest of it: the stuff he gained from those talks. 

Tressel can do whatever, it's not his ass on the line with the Ohio Bar.

victors2000

March 9th, 2011 at 9:11 PM ^

to disciplining the players and ensuring this did not happen again. He could have sent someone to the tatoo shop and inquired about the memorabilia on display. He could of confronted the players with this information, as well as spoke to the team about a significant violation of NCAA rules. The players could have been disciplined under the ambiguous 'violation of team rules'. From the looks of it he did nothing, which doesn't support his side of the story, his defense of 'protecting' the players, and to me is quite damning.

Geaux_Blue

March 9th, 2011 at 9:30 PM ^

they claimed they couldn't suspend a player because people would ask too many questions...

he couldn't suspend them 3 games each to start the season, or spread out, for a violation of team rules he "wouldn't get into"? if the press figures out it's for the autographs, then guess what tress - it wasn't too privileged for people to find out now was it?

of course, we're arguing rational hypotheses for an absolutely horrible lie everyone can see through.

justingoblue

March 9th, 2011 at 9:36 PM ^

The best explanation I've heard for Tressel's ridiculously stupid lies was on Jim Rome today. I don't know who the guest was, I don't watch often (it was a black guy with a really fast voice if that means anything to anyone) but he said, "It's a product of him always talking to people who are dumber than he is." 

I thought that was about the perfect explanation for why he would say something so dumb and hope to get away with it.

jackrobert

March 9th, 2011 at 9:54 PM ^

The first email is the key one with respect to showing that Tressel's story is bullshit made up after the fact.  The first email shows that Cicero was not acting as counsel for anyone at that time--he learned about the case from his law enforcement buddies and passed the info along to Tressel as a friendly heads-up.  Also, note that Cicero made no request for confidentiality in the first email.  This is because Cicero had no reason to request confidentiality at that time.  Tressel's "I did it for the children" story doesn't stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.
 
FWIW, like a lot of other people on here, I'm a practicing lawyer.  Cicero will be disciplined for violating his duty of confidentiality to his client in the later emails.  Of course, there was no duty of confidentiality between Tressel and Cicero or between Tressel and anyone else.  If Tressel had forwarded any emails to OSU legal counsel like he should have, they could have worked with the prosecutors to ensure that the confidentiality of the ongoing investigation was not compromised.  I'm sure the NCAA would have agreed to keep their resulting investigation under seal until the criminal investigation was over.  Prosecutors and companies conduct investigations under these circumstances all the time.  Even civil cases between businesses can be filed under seal to protect the reputations of the businesses.  Again, the upshot is that Tressel's story holds no water.
 
One last thought: one of my big questions after reading the emails this morning was why did Tressel take what some random emailer said at face value?  If I'm Tressel and I get the initial email, my first response is to forward it to compliance and legal with a brief message saying: "Random dude just sent me this email.  What should we do?"  The fact that Tressel chose to bury the email shows that (1) he already had reason to believe shady shit was going down at the tattoo parlor and/or (2) Tressel knew the emailer and considered him a trustworthy source.  We know number 2 is right.  An open question is what did Tressel already know about the tattoo parlor?

2plankr

March 9th, 2011 at 9:01 PM ^

thats true.  but you said:

"this is something 80% of people are not realizing/reading

he NEVER says he's involved in the investigation and likely wasn't. further, he likely does not know ANYONE involved. "

that is incorrect