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Legal Ethics

Lawyer suspended for posting video of undercover drug buy in mistaken belief it exonerated client

Posted Mar 19, 2014 11:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An Illinois lawyer will be suspended for five months for posting a discovery video of an undercover drug buy in the initial but apparently mistaken belief that it exonerated his client.

Lawyer Jesse Raymond Gilsdorf was suspended in an Illinois Supreme Court order issued on March 14. The court agreed with the five-month-suspension recommendation by the Review Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

The video, obtained from prosecutors in discovery, showed Gilsdorf’s client giving something —allegedly Hydrocodone pills—to an undercover informant in exchange for money, according to a December opinion by the Review Board.

Gilsdorf initially thought the video appeared to show police planting drugs, so he posted it to YouTube with the caption, “Cops and Task Force Planting Drugs.” He also linked to the video on his Facebook page.

Gilsdorf testified he watched the video again after the prosecutor told him it was proof that his client delivered drugs to the buyer. After reviewing the video on a large-screen TV, Gilsdorf said, he decided it did indeed show the drug delivery and he advised his client to accept a plea bargain. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.

Gilsdorf’s client said the criminal matter became a “media storm” after the video was posted, and "people that have known me my whole life don't speak to me now."

The client and Gilsdorf differed over whether the lawyer disclosed his plans to post the videos, but in any event Gilsdorf failed to explain the possible consequences or risks of the posting, the Review Board said. As a result, he did not obtain informed consent as required before disclosure of information related to representation of a client, the Review Board said.

Gilsdorf “published damning evidence on the Internet with little to no thought or discussion of the possible consequences to his client,” the Review Board said. “His conduct threatened the fairness of a criminal proceeding and harmed his client.”

A phone call placed to Gilsdorf's office was answered by a woman who identified herself as his wife. She declined comment on the case.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Should lawyer who posted video implicating client be disciplined?"

ABAJournal.com: "Ethics Complaint Claims Lawyer Tried to Sway Potential Jurors by Posting Discovery Video on YouTube"

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