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 join in this opinion. Opposed -- None.
This disciplinary proceeding arose from a motion filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) before the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB), seeking final discipline of respondent, Dominick Giordano, pursuant to Rule 1:20-6. The motion was based on respondent's plea of guilty to the offense of tampering with public records, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:28-7, N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6, and N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1. The DRB found that respondent has engaged in illegal conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, and recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for three years.
The case concerns a bizarre love-for-favors arrangement between respondent and an intermediary in a web of criminal tampering with the licensing records of the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Because the participants included a former prostitute and one who has since committed suicide, we use fictitious names in our recital.
In late 1985, a State Police informant, Baker, outlined for the State Police the details of a scheme to sell official State driver licenses generated by programming the DMV's computers to overlook existing suspensions and reissue licenses illegally. The cost of the licenses varied from $1,000 to $2,000. Baker was a feeder in the operation. He was paid for contacting a go-between, Eisner, who in turn contacted Don Peko, the live-in lover of Mary Oxnard, a DMV employee at its office in Eatontown. Because Oxnard had access to the DMV's computer, she was the key to the scheme. She received $50 to $100 for having the machine issue the licenses. The feeders were paid about $200 and the rest went to the intermediaries, Eisner and Peko.
When confronted by the State Police in early February of 1986, Oxnard and Peko agreed to cooperate. Eisner committed suicide.
One of Baker's customers was Myra Day, a prostitute, who had dealt with Baker on behalf of potential license buyers who were sometimes referred to her by her own customers. She called Baker on February 21st to tell him that her attorney, the respondent, Dominick Giordano, had inquired if she could still get licenses. Giordano had called to tell her that one of his clients, Clyde Passeau, whose license had been suspended for driving while intoxicated, would be calling her.
Baker relayed that information to the State Police, who surveilled Day's February 24th meeting with Passeau. They subsequently arrested her, and she too agreed to cooperate. The police gave her a fictitious license for a meeting scheduled for February 29th with Passeau. Passeau accepted the license and was arrested as he walked away from their meeting. He agreed to cooperate, and the police set up a call from Passeau to Giordano. During that conversation, Passeau thanked Giordano for getting him his license. Giordano commented in response: "Ah -- I'm glad everything worked out for you."
In the meantime, Day informed the State Police that she had received a message from Giordano on March 3rd concerning the deal with Passeau. On March 4, 1986, pursuant to police authorization, Day recorded a telephone call to Giordano in which Giordano said: "[Passeau] was very pleased and * * * you know, in that field word, word travels, and there may be a lot more." Giordano went on to say that he told Passeau that if he knew someone who needed a license, Passeau should call him to resolve it.
On March 5, 1986, the police equipped Passeau with a recorder to record a conversation with Giordano at his law office. During that meeting, Giordano made a copy of the license so that he could later check its authenticity. Passeau told Giordano that he knew other people who were interested in obtaining
licenses. Giordano responded by saying, "Who are they? these good people? -- I mean -- ah --?" However, he told Passeau to wait and not to ...