COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The lawyer whose email tips about Ohio State football players trading memorabilia for tattoos triggered a far-reaching scandal should lose his law license for six months, an Ohio Supreme Court disciplinary board recommended for the second time.
At issue is whether Columbus attorney Christopher Cicero violated professional rules of conduct that prohibit revealing information from meetings with a client or a prospective client.
The Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline made its original recommendation in February, then reviewed the decision after Cicero asked the board to reconsider. It made the same recommendation in a document dated Friday and filed in court Monday.
Cicero sent emails to then-coach Jim Tressel in April 2010, warning him that players were selling memorabilia or trading them for tattoos. The correspondences sparked the scandal and ended Tressel’s Ohio State career.
Cicero met with Columbus tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife on April 2, 2010, according to court documents, and again on April 15, 2010, to discuss whether Cicero would represent him in a federal drug-trafficking case, according to a complaint against him by the Disciplinary Counsel of the Ohio Supreme Court.
Cicero had argued that the grievances board relied on a faulty transcript of its November hearing and that a corrected quote in the updated transcript weakens its case.
In the original transcript, Cicero tells the board, referring to Rife, “I quoted him a legal fee and that’s just it.”
The corrected transcript shows that Cicero actually said, “I never quoted him a legal fee and that’s just it.”
The board said the change didn’t change the weight of evidence against Cicero.
In emails to Tressel, Cicero seemed to make it clear that he may have taken on Rife as a client.
“If he retains me, and he may, I will try to get these items back,” Cicero wrote in an April 16, 2010, email.
“I have to sit tight and wait to see if he retains me, but at least he came in last night to do a face to face with me,” Cicero wrote later that day.
Cicero said he sent the emails to Tressel to protect the players and the program.
An NCAA investigation also led to a bowl ban this year, reductions in scholarships and the loss of Ohio State’s $389,000 share of the Big Ten bowl pot a year ago. The entire 2010 season also was vacated.