Posted Dec 05, 2012 02:55 pm CST
Once a promising young partner at a matrimonial law firm in suburban Chicago, Jason W. Smiekel was sentenced Tuesday to eight and a half years in federal prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to plotting to hire a hit man to kill an ex-client’s former girlfriend.
Smiekel, 30, began a relationship with the woman while representing the man in a child-custody battle, reports the Chicago Tribune. As a condition of his guilty plea in April, he also gave up his license to practice law, the article says. He is currently listed as licensed, but suspended from practicing, on a state supreme court lawyer registry website.
As detailed in earlier ABA Journal posts, authorities said Smiekel tried to persuade five individuals, including a client who owed him legal fees, to eliminate his ex-client. At least one of the five blew the whistle. Smiekel was arrested after allegedly giving a $7,000 down payment on a $20,000 contract to an undercover agent of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at a suburban Chicago restaurant.
His lawyer, Ralph Meczyk, told told the Tribune that Smiekel could have gotten as much as 10 years under the plea deal, but said the judge gave his client less time because his judgment was impaired by the issues with which he has been struggling. These include alcoholism and a generalized anxiety disorder, for which Smiekel hopes to be treated at a Rochester, Minn., medical facility for federal prisoners.
When news of Smiekel’s arrest first made headlines in August 2011, a fellow partner at Mohr Hill & Smiekel told the ABA Journal he was shocked and stunned when the promising young attorney called him for help finding a criminal lawyer after being arrested.
“I said, ‘What are you being arrested for?’” recounted Terry Mohr. “He said, ‘I can’t tell you. I’m on an ATF phone.’”
ABAJournal.com: “Prosecutor Says Lawyer Tried to Get One Client, Who Owed Legal Fees, to Take Contract Hit on Another”
ABAJournal.com: “Divorce Lawyer Takes Plea, Admits Contract Hit Plot re Ex-Boyfriend of Ex-Client He Was Dating”