Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.
Decided on April 11, 2013 SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISIONFirst Judicial Department Helen E. Freedman, Justice Presiding, Rosalyn H. Richter Sheila Abdus-Salaam Sallie Manzanet-Daniels Nelson S. Roman, Justices.
Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Roman Leonov, was admitted to the Bar of the State of New York at a Term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the Second Judicial Department on May 21, 2008.
Respondent Roman Leonov was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the Second Judicial Department on May 21, 2008. At all times relevant to these proceedings, he has maintained an office for the practice of law within the First Judicial Department.
On December 27, 2011, this Court publicly censured respondent for violating Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-102(a)(3) (22 NYCRR 1200.3 [a]) (engaging in illegal conduct that adversely reflected on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer) based upon his violent, physical assault on a taxi driver in 2008 which resulted in serious injuries to the driver (requiring surgery) and a misdemeanor criminal conviction for respondent (Matter of Leonov, 92 AD3d 50 [1st Dept 2011]).
In February 2012, respondent was served with a notice and statement of charges alleging that he engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rule 8.4(c), and conduct that adversely reflected on his fitness as a lawyer in violation of rule 8.4(h), by sending an email to a former employee of a client, falsely stating that an injunction was filed against him and that he would be held in contempt if he tried to contact the client. Respondent submitted an answer admitting to both charges, and the parties entered into a prehearing stipulation.
The Referee held a hearing at which respondent appeared pro se. In his report, the Referee sustained the two admitted charges and recommended a public censure. The Hearing Panel confirmed the Referee's report in its entirety, including the recommended sanction of censure.
The Committee now moves pursuant to 22 NYCRR 603.4(d) and 605.15(e)(2), confirming the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and sanction recommendation of the Referee and Hearing Panel, and imposing censure. Respondent, pro se, has not submitted a response to this petition.
The facts are undisputed. In approximately 2009, respondent became employed by UtiliSave LLC, initially to collect its accounts receivables and then as general counsel. In February 2010, UtiliSave hired Christopher O'Dea as a salesman but by July 2010, he resigned and respondent was assigned to all matters related to O'Dea's departure. According to respondent, O'Dea was contacting people at UtiliSave telling them he was owed money, and both the vice president and CEO of the company were afraid that O'Dea would cause them physical harm. When respondent spoke with someone at the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office about O'Dea, that person told him to call 911 if he believed there was a threat, but respondent decided against it because he didn't want O'Dea to be arrested.
Instead, on or about August 21, 2010, respondent sent an email to O'Dea that included this language: "You are on notice that I have filed an injunction with the District Attorney's office against you. Any further communications from you including a response to this or any previous email, letter, or other correspondence will be deemed to be in contempt of this injunction and you will subject yourself to contempt of court citations or worse." O'Dea reported respondent to the Committee.
Respondent testified that his only purpose for sending the email was to discourage O'Dea from contacting UtiliSave or any of its employees, and not to cause O'Dea any harm. Respondent described his conduct as "stupidity" committed due to a "lack of knowledge," admitting that the false email should never have been written, that it was a terrible mistake and that he had no defense for his actions. He also stated that he did not want to receive another censure (like the one he received for assaulting the taxi driver) and he asked for a reprimand. Respondent testified that as a result of his criminal record ...