On an order to show cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
For suspension -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None.
Nine years ago respondent became involved in a bizarre incident in which he committed serious ethical infractions. The District XIII Ethics Committee (Committee) recommended a private reprimand, and the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) recommended a suspended two-year suspension. In February 1982 respondent voluntarily suspended himself from the practice of law, except for pro bono work. Under the unique circumstances of this case, we are persuaded that an additional six-months' suspension is both necessary and adequate.
Respondent was admitted to the bar in 1977, and in 1978 he became an assistant prosecutor in Somerset County. Described by his superiors in the prosecutor's office as "one of the most-committed" and "hardest-working" prosecutors, he was also characterized as naive, immature, and susceptible to manipulation by others. Against that background, he became involved with Pamela Rutledge and Thomas DeFeo, who served as informants in an investigation of a residential-treatment center for disturbed youths. Both informants were described as "street-wise," and Mr. DeFeo was a convicted criminal. In the course of his involvement with the couple, respondent became infatuated with Ms. Rutledge. To ingratiate himself with her, he committed a series of gross improprieties. We need not belabor the details of the sordid incident. Suffice it to
say that while respondent thought he was manipulating the informants, they were also manipulating him.
On one occasion, respondent removed some marijuana and phencyclidine (PCP) from the prosecutor's office. The informants smoked this marijuana at respondent's home. Although the record is not clear whether respondent joined them on this occasion, he had smoked marijuana with them previously.
On another occasion when the police discovered marijuana and other controlled dangerous substances in the informants' apartment, the police arrested them. Ms. Rutledge called respondent, and he stopped the search of the apartment. His explanation is that he thought, under the circumstances, a search warrant was required. He then obtained approval to draw the warrant. Thereafter he embarked on a course of conduct in which he simultaneously sought to accommodate Rutledge and fulfill his obligations as a prosecutor. Although he assured Rutledge that he would try to reduce the bail for her cohort, DeFeo, respondent urged the court to increase the bail. His motivation was to have more time alone with Rutledge. Although he purported to help Rutledge and DeFeo with the motion to suppress the contraband seized in their apartment, he wrote a supplemental trial brief to sustain the search. When the trial court suppressed the contraband, respondent wrote an appellate brief that led to the reversal of the suppression order.
While DeFeo was in jail, respondent took Rutledge out to dinner. Respondent received a telephone call from a municipal police department concerning a search warrant, and he invited Rutledge to accompany him to police headquarters, where he introduced her as a legal intern in the prosecutor's office. He repeated the introduction to the police at the premises being searched.
The DRB summarized the details of respondent's conduct:
As this sorry state of affairs reveals, respondent betrayed the confidence reposed upon him, as a prosecutor, by the members of the public, whose
interests he swore to protect. By developing a personal relationship with Rutledge and DeFeo, a relationship which exceeded the bounds reasonably necessary to obtain cooperation from an informant, respondent's ...