Legal Ethics

Ethics complaint accuses lawyer of sexting with client later accused in extortion plot

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An ethics complaint accuses a lawyer in Lima, Ohio, of sexting with a client later charged with obstruction of justice in an alleged extortion scheme against the attorney.

The ethics complaint alleges that lawyer N. Shannon Bartels had hundreds of sexual conversations for about a month in 2013 with a man who hired her in his divorce case, according to “The sext messages were mutual, reciprocal, and very explicit and graphic in their sexual content, expressing, among other things, a mutual desire to engage in sexual intercourse,” the complaint says. Bartels and the client did not actually engage in sexual intercourse, however, the complaint (PDF) says.

A probable cause panel recently certified the ethics complaint to the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline, according to a press release. After Bartels files an answer, the case will be heard by a hearing panel.

Bartels was previously reprimanded for sexual activity with a client in 2008, according to The sexual relationship began on the day that a judgment was entered in the client’s custody and visitation case, according to the 2010 opinion (PDF).

The new ethics case says the first threat to reveal the sexts was made in April 2013, as the sex messages were ending. A text sent to Bartels at that time suggested that, if the results of the divorce weren’t satisfactory, ethics officials might be interested in receiving the sexts and photos exchanged between Bartels and the client, the ethics complaint says.

In a May 2013 conversation between Bartels and the client, he put a female on the phone who told Bartels that the lawyer better get the client everything he wanted in the divorce. The female also said Bartels should bring $3,000 to a scheduled divorce hearing, the complaint says. Bartels responded that the woman was committing extortion and ended the conversation, the complaint says.

No mention of the threat or demand for money was made at the divorce hearing, but Bartels received another text in September 2013 telling her the client should receive a refund of at least $2,500 or the sexts would be reported. Bartels reported the threat to sheriff’s police, who determined the client’s girlfriend had sent the texts, the complaint says. The client said he knew of the texts but didn’t send any of them.

The client and the girlfriend pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in January 2014 and were each sentenced to two years’ probation, reports.

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