NORWALK, Ohio - A longtime Norwalk attorney has been suspended from practicing law for six months for paying a woman he defended against criminal charges to pose nude for photographs in 2001.
According to a decision issued last week by the Ohio Supreme Court, Thomas H. Freeman subsequently offered the 18-year-old woman alcohol, asked her to pose nude again for photographs, and solicited her to perform sex acts for money. Mr. Freeman has been licensed to practice law in Ohio since 1975.
"Sex with clients is always a problem under any circumstances," said Lori Brown, the assistant disciplinary counsel for the Supreme Court. The disciplinary counsel's office requested a suspension of Mr. Freeman's law license in a filing with the court in December, 2003, and the six-month period was suggested by the court's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.
"That was what the recommendation of the board was," said Charles John Kettlewell, a Columbus attorney who represented Mr. Freeman. "I don't feel it was inappropriate." He declined to comment further.
According to the court's ruling, the woman hired Mr. Freeman in February, 2001, "to defend her against serious criminal charges" in Medina County. At the time of her arrest, she was about a month shy of her 18th birthday.
Three days after she turned 18, Mr. Freeman "paid the woman $150 to pose for photographs in various states of undress," the ruling states.
That spring, the attorney drove his client to a court appearance in Medina and bought her three shirts and a bra-and-panty set as a gift on the way home, the ruling said.
The woman's family later contacted police, and she recorded a conversation with Mr. Freeman at his home while wearing a police surveillance wire in June, 2001. On the recording, Mr. Freeman made the offer of alcoholic beverages, discussed having her pose nude, and asked her to perform sex acts "for specific amounts of money," the ruling states.
In an opinion signed by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and justices Alice Robie Resnick, Paul Pfeifer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Maureen O'Connor, and Judith Ann Lanzinger, the court criticized Mr. Freeman for what it called a lack of remorse.
"Indeed, for the unconscionable advantage he took of his client, respondent offers nothing in the way of contrition or promises of rehabilitation," the justices wrote. "Moreover, of the letters recommending respondent's character, none explain why the authors continue to hold him in such high regard despite the truth of allegations lodged against him."
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