Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sean O'Toole Is Dead



I was sent this link by a friend who thinks I may have known Sean O'Toole;  he looks familiar.  But I did not know him.  The article by Donna J. Miller from Cleveland.com which is the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, grabbed my attention for another reason, let me quote from it:

"A former assistant Medina County public defender convicted for sharing child pornography on the Internet was found hanging by a sheet last week in his cell at the Ashtabula County Jail.

Sean O'Toole, 42, faced up to 20 years in federal prison. He would have been sentenced Jan. 26.   His body was found at 5:35 a.m. Thursday in his one-man cell, Ashtabula County Coroner's Chief Investigator Rich Mongell said. O'Toole was not on suicide watch and gave no indication that he had become suicidal, Mongell said.   The body was sent to the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office, which had not yet sent the findings to the Ashtabula coroner, who will make a formal ruling.   O'Toole pleaded guilty in September to sending and receiving pornographic photographs and videos. Federal records show that his computer held many sexually-explicit images of infants and children being sexually-abused and raped. His Internet screen name was Daddy4slut.  Investigators searched O'Toole's Lakewood home on May 22 after a five-month investigation that began when O'Toole used an Internet site set up by an FBI agent that allowed file sharing, according to an affidavit filed seeking the search warrant.

In September, O'Toole wrote a letter to a judge accepting responsibility for his actions.   'One of my biggest regrets in all of this is that I may be responsible for exposing someone to child porn that is now as obsessive as I was,'  O'Toole wrote. 'When I was arrested, I had a family. Now I don't... I used to think I was an honorable man. Now I realize I am neither. Not honorable, or a man.'  O'Toole's former attorney, James Kersey, was saddened when he learned of the death.   'He was a nice, pleasant, intelligent guy,' Kersey said. 'He must have felt the sentence was so severe, so steep that he had nowhere to go and took his own life.'"
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I think attorney Kersey is wrong, I don't think the length of the the prospective prison sentence had anything to do with Sean O'Toole hanging himself.  Something in what O'Toole wrote the Judge is telling me that this poor bastard had a heart, a soul, and a conscience.  He knew who he was; he knew what he was; and, he could not figure a way to transcend his horror. 

This was a lawyer.  I see myself as a lawyer, a father, a domestic partner (for the blonde Super Lawyer,) the magnitude of my professional/personal disaster is different than O'Toole's.  He was the sort of person I pursued as a lawyer--and, yet I feel a strong connection through his words--"not honorable, or a man." 

I had lunch downtown, yesterday--with a colleague to discuss going back to work, "in house."  The lunch was in the restaurant in my old office building which meant I had to drive downtown, see and walk by people I know and worked with for a quarter century.  By this time in the unfolding of events, my "fall," is public knowledge and doubtless fodder for the kind of gossip I listened to before it was my turn to be disgraced.  I saw the partner of the lawyer who sent my bank statements to disciplinary counsel.  I ran into a married couple who long practiced law together in OurTown--they hugged me and told me that the 24 months would speed by--and I'd be back.  I ran into Dick Ahole, who wanted to pump me for information.  "So what are you going to do now?," he asked.  I shrugged my shoulders. 

Sunday, my son and I saw Avatar which has a protagonist a paraplegic veteran.  The best part of this move apart from the innovative visuals turns on the transcendence of this paraplegic into another life form.  This same theme was played out for me earlier in the week when I heard Terry Gross on Fresh Air replay her interview with Teddy Pendergrass, the great Philly soul singer who died last week.  Pendergrass was one of the SEX SYMBOLS of his time, as lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and later as a solo peroformer.  In his prime Pendergrass survived a devastating car accident, quadriplegia and suicidal depression.   Pendergrass said he survived his devastating physical injury after he held a mock funeral for himself on the advice of a psychologist who was also a quadriplegic.  Pendergrass told Terry Gross, that he was able to transcend his injury and become a new man--a highly successful entertainer until he death last week. 

Sean O'Toole is dead.  He had been an attorney;  and, clearly he was mentally ill.  After his disgrace, he saw no way to transcend who and what he had become.  He could not live with the disgrace.  But in his final words to the Judge, "nor honorable, or a man"--maybe,  just maybe, Sean O'Toole regained a little honor and some of his manhood.   I write about a lot of shitheads on this blawg, very few of them have "shame," which to my way of thinking has something to do with honor and manhood.  Rest in peace, Sean O'Toole.

17 comments:

  1. Bad Lawyer, thank you for this and for your other thoughtful writing.

    Disgruntl Ed.

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  2. We are inured into becoming what we detest. The increments are so small they go unnoticed. But the consequences of realizing what we have become, what will happen now, what we have done to others & worst of all it could happen all over again- because we are still so blind to the small increments of ego. Overwhelming; if it doesn't end your life it will certainly change it. Sean O'Toole was ill, badly flawed but awfully human.

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  3. Thank you for reading the Bad Lawyer. I am touched my your thoughts.

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  4. I knew Sean. Many people who did could not look past this crime which dcestroyed his life as he knew it and caused him the loss of trust and love from those he knew

    Thank you for looking past the crime into the man. dispite what he wrote he was an honorable man just one who lost his way... could he come back from it we will never know. I am very sad for his loss and your kindness is touching

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  5. I didnt know Sean or any of his victims. The loss of his life is worse than what they suffered for they have the opportunity for eternity with God, but he gave up hope. It would be good if those who teach fire and brimstone would spend as much time talking about Jesus on the cross with the two theives at his death, willing to forgive one of them his sins and welcome him to heaven, for repentance up to the very last second.
    If more people realized that it is not too late, and God will forgive anything as long as we are truly sorry, less people might take their own lives. Certainly, less people would feel so despondent to think that is their only choice.
    RIP Sean.
    Patrick

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    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB3g6mXLEKk

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  6. Still gossiping (for the movie dude) about the BL in 2010 I see (although a bit odd...makes a person wonder why). God deals with evil. Evil is always revealed in God's own time and in his own way. FBI records don't lie. Sean O'toole made evil choices. If he was able to practice law before the FBI arrested him, he should have been able to realize the evil nature of what he was doing.

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  7. Patrick--

    I've thought about the Gospel parallel as I knew you would. When Jesus went to be baptised who did he line up with--it wasn't the righteous.

    While Sean O'Toole crimes can not be excused, O'Toole definitely left victims, and I don't purport to know the details--we deny our own humanity in not seeing his humanity if only in his disgrace and shame. We don't embrace who we are, if we don't pause to grieve who he was. Thank you for all the comments on Sean O'Toole.

    BL

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  8. Sean and I were in the same college fraternity, although not at the same time. (I'm a few years older.) I'm also an attorney. I met Sean a few times at alumni functions and I ran into him a few time in the courthouses of northeastern Ohio.

    I was SHOCKED when I found out about his arrest. My initial reaction was to remind my fraternity brothers that he was merely accused of commiting a crime, not convicted. There could be a reasonable explanation, such as the pictures were evidence against a client he was defending. I guess I was in denial. I had thought that I had never met anyone who compulsively views "kiddie porn".

    Sean's letter to the judge was indicative of the Sean I knew. He was very straightforward, opinionated, and tended to see things as black-or-white. I was saddened by his death. Hindsight being 20/20, I guess his letter kinda showed where his thoughts were going.

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  9. Dear Bad Lawyer:
    I did a Google search of Sean O'Toole. You see he was my brother. I am amazed at how kind you were in writing this article and just wanted to say thank you. My name is Jenifer O'Toole. My brother was ill but a very intelligent man who hid this illness very well. I couldn't believe he hung himself but feel he had no where to turn. You don't just give a prisoner in cell by himself an extra sheet without asking why. And these prison guards were surprised he hung himself? I feel the system was going to make an example out of him as he was part of the legal system for so long. I wish he had gotten the help he needed before all this took place.

    Sean left behind a very sweet wife and my 9 year old niece. They are both left to pick up the pieces and it will be years "on the couch" for my niece.

    Thanks again for the kind words and yes, Rest In Peace little brother.

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  10. Jennifer--

    Thank you for your kind note, I wish you and your family peace and when I remember to, I pray for Sean's soul. I am convinced that Sean had a good soul, I regret that he felt so much despair ontop of the obvious pain and depression and left too soon. But, Sean did leave an important and positive message even in all the darkness. There was a human being, with a human heart filled with regret.
    BL

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  11. Jenifer O'TooleAugust 18, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    I didn't realize that you do blogs. You are an amazing writer with a lot of positive views on things. Keep up the good work so I can keep following you. Sincerely, Jenifer O'Toole

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  12. A suspension is not easy. I hope it goes fast for you. I taught through a one year suspension. The thing I found as I talked to other lawyers was that so many of them said, "There but for the grace of God go I."

    This is not an easy job. $500.00 for $3,000.00 of work, and the $500.00 is not even paid in full. I had a client found NOT GUILTY after a jury trial. He still owed me $300.00. When I reminded him, he said, "I wann't guilty, why should I pay that?"

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  13. Jennifer,

    I knew your brother. He loved Chineese food, and a good joke. Big into trains and military movies. I worked with him, and know that this thing must have grabbed him little by little. I hope M has a good life.

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  14. Dear Anonymous:
    I am glad you got to know my brother. He was a great father and husband but did have a dark side that not even the family knew about. I know he always loved Chinese food and we both were in the military. He is the one who encouraged me to enlist. Yes, this illness grabbed him little by little. Just wish he would have gotten the help he needed in time. Yes, I too, hope M has a good life. She looks so much like him and has his magnetic personality and is still wondering why Daddy left her and Erin too is having a tough time dealing with this now moreso than ever. Thank you for your kinds words. I will always defend him no matter what.

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  15. I had Sean O'Toole as my public defender and while I actually had an emotional illness (PTSD, anxiety and depression) compelling me to call all of my former employers for closure on something that had happened years ago. Mr. O'Toole, did not have a mental illness. He enjoyed looking at things that are a society "no-no". I asked Mr. O'Toole to leave me in jail because for whatever reason I could not stop myself from calling this one supervisor. After I would leave a message for her about something that had happened, I would relax and calm down. Sean said he wouldn't be doing his job if he left me in jail. He told me to say guilty for a charge I did not do because he said "they want to put you on probation". I wanted to be cooperative as I was never trying to harass anyone by calling them. I thought the "they" included the Judge. It did not, this public defender was helping the prosecutor not his client (myself).

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    1. I agreed to something I did not do and later did not even end up on probation which would have helped me to not call this person and not be in jail. I wasn't doing this action because I wanted to, I was trying to resolve something that happened at a previous job with a previous supervisor. Sean said to me, right before court. I don't know what to do because you called this person and you plead not guilty. I replied "you told me to say not guilty". I spoke to him on the phone at one point explaining that I could not stop myself from calling her because it calmed me down. He fell asleep on the phone and was snoring. I still believed at that point that people were general good and helpful. Now after everything in Medina, I know there are a lot of professionals out there that do not do what they are supposed to do. I am suspended from using my LISW due to mental health reasons. Why couldn't Sean or any of the public defenders get me out of the criminal charges because there was no criminal intent. Because I never threatened anyone or used bad language. I told Sean if he came to me for therapy I would know what to do. I was going to him for legal counsel and he told me he didn't know what to do. I have corrected my past issue causing me to repeatedly, amount obsessively call a former supervisor who I was asking for help. I have had my intentions twisted and confused. Sean never listened to what I was telling him. He never tried to understand what was going on and finally, he gave up and said he would not represent me anymore because I would get out of jail and end up calling this person. Another public defender kept sending me to the psych hospital which was also not helpful because anxiety medication took away any doubt I might have had about calling this person. I finally came up with a behavioral approach by calling my dad instead of anyone else and knowing he would not call the police even if I called him all the time. He slowly was able to ask me questions about "did I really need to call then or could it have waited til morning". Slowly I was able to put limits on myself again. Finally I was okay. No help from Sean who could not see my cry for help even when I was saying please help. It is a selfish move to commit suicide when you have a child. It would be better to be a flawed professional person but to still be there for your child. He took the easy way out. I am still fighting to get back to work and my career, whatever it ends up being after all of this. I feel sorry for everyone's loss, (I was lucky to have a masters degree and no prior illegal involvement other then in Medina and hopefully can get my life back together, now going on 11 yrs later.)but how many other people charged with crimes in Medina did Sean also not help? People whose lives may still be in chaos as a result of his actions as a public defendant. All of this not even related at all to his looking at what should not be something anyone should want to look at. He should have tried to get help as I was trying to get help. Sure he took responsibility after the fact, but taking responsibility the minute he knew he was hiding something would have been a better indication of the "type" of person Sean O'Toole was.

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