Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Update on Lawyer Who Violated Confidentiality to Curry Favor with Disgraced Big Ten Coach

Christopher Cicero

Reporter Catherine Candisky at the Columbus Dispatch has a follow up to yesterday's story about Columbus-area attorney Christopher Cicero who sold out a potential criminal defense client's confidentiality to curry favor with then Ohio State Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel.  Ms. Candinsky explores the position that I took yesterday in focusing on the outrageous nature of the alleged ethical breach by attorney Cicero and Ms.Candisky supplies some fascinating additional details about Cicero.  Apparently the attorney's actions were consistent with who this guy is:

The Columbus lawyer at the center of the controversy surrounding former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel could lose his license to practice law.

The Ohio Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint yesterday against Christopher T. Cicero, accusing him of violating attorney-client confidentiality when he told Tressel in a series of emails that players had been given free tattoos in exchange for signed memorabilia.

Cicero, a criminal-defense lawyer, learned of the situation when the owner of the tattoo parlor came to him for legal advice about a federal drug investigation of him.

Edward Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink on the West Side, met with Cicero twice but never hired him.

"Even when no client-lawyer relationship ensues, a lawyer who has had discussions with a prospective client shall not use or reveal information learned in the consultation," Disciplinary Counsel Jonathan E. Coughlan wrote in a seven-page complaint filed with the Ohio Supreme Court.

Cicero [ could lose his law license.]

In 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended Cicero's law license for misconduct after he told lawyers and others that he was having sex with then-Judge Deborah P. O'Neill, who had appointed Cicero to defend a client in a criminal case. Cicero ultimately admitted that he had overstated the affair and that it did not start until after O'Neill had stepped down from the case.

According to the complaint filed yesterday, Cicero met with Rife on April 2, 2010, after federal authorities raided his house as part of a criminal drug investigation. Immediately after the meeting, Cicero emailed Tressel and told him about the raid and the seizure of $70,000 in cash and OSU memorabilia.

Cicero and Rife met again on April 15, 2010. The next morning, Cicero sent a second email to Tressel, giving the coach a detailed accounting of the number of jerseys, footballs and championship rings that Rife had.

In a third email, sent the same day, Cicero told Tressel that he would try to get the memorabilia returned if Rife retained him, and he suggested that Tressel keep the players away from Rife's tattoo parlor and tell them not to call Rife because authorities were likely to review his phone records.

Tressel resigned on May 30 after he admitted withholding information that his players might have violated NCAA rules.

The emails from Cicero were key because months later, when five of Tressel's players were suspended by the NCAA for selling or trading memorabilia for tattoos, the coach expressed surprise.

Eventually, Tressel acknowledged that he had exchanged emails with Cicero regarding his players' contacts with Rife and said he did not pass the information along to Ohio State or other officials because he thought he might violate legal confidentiality.  But Cicero didn't say that the information was confidential in his first email to Tressel, and the coach forwarded the correspondence to mentors of quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Cicero, who played football for Ohio State in the early 1980s, did not respond to messages left on his cellphone yesterday[.]
This attorney played football for Ohio State, he already has been down the disciplinary road--he of all people should have known better.  It always comes down to ego.  Wanting to be the big shot, Cicero allegedly sells out his client.  The damage done to Mr. Rife is what's lost in this story.  Rife had every right to expect that what he told Cicero was to remain confidential. 


  1. Here is 1 lawyer that will be able to maybe get some traffic cases in Michigan or somewhere but in Ohio, he is done...

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  2. He should be disbarred and shipped to Siberia. He violated a sacred oath that makes all lawyers look bad... Guess if I need an attorney, I will go out of town to get 1. Who can you trust in Columbus anymore. This guy just committed "Political/Business Suicide." I almost feel sorry for him. All the years in school to throw it away because he wanted to be a big man with big info. Guess he is important now huh?

  3. I agree with your statement about attorney corruption in Columbus, But it goes deeper than that it includes the Ohio Disiplinary Counsel as well. They protect corrupt attorneys at all cost. That is a shame as it a blight on the Ohio Supreme Court.