Lawyer gets 5-year suspension for firing gun into colleague's law office
Image from Shutterstock.com.
A lawyer who practices in Portland, Oregon, has received a five-year suspension for firing six bullets into the law office of a colleague, narrowly missing the law firm manager who was in the building.
The Oregon Supreme Court suspended lawyer Erik Graeff of Vancouver, Washington, in an April 22 opinion, report the Oregonian, Law360 and the Legal Profession Blog.
Graeff has been disbarred in Washington, but the Oregon Supreme Court instead opted for its toughest suspension. The court cited several mitigating factors supporting suspension, rather than disbarment. They included Graeff’s personal circumstances, his otherwise clear disciplinary record, his punishment for the crime, and his payment to the insurance company for the damage caused to the law office.
Graeff is an Iraq war veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder. He began drinking heavily after his father’s death in 2015, and he was not able to get sober, despite participation in a Veterans Administration treatment program, the court said. He had been drinking beer most of the day when he fired shots at the building, he later testified.
Graeff shot into the law office of Terrance Hogan in Beaverton, Oregon, in December 2017 after an escalating dispute with the lawyer. Hogan had been Graeff’s friend and mentor, and had hired Graeff to file a case in Washington. Graeff and Hogan argued about the scope of Graeff’s duties in the case. On the day of the shooting, they exchanged “heated emails” about the case, the Oregon Supreme Court said.
According to previous coverage of police allegations, Graeff initially responded to Hogan’s complaint about the case with an image of a cat playing a violin. Hogan responded by saying Graeff would have to explain his conduct to the state bars in Oregon and Washington. Graeff said he would be waiting, and that he is tougher than Hogan and the state bars. Hogan responded, “You know where I am, tough guy.”
Graeff drove to Hogan’s office during evening rush hour and fired six rounds into the building where Hogan’s law office was located. Three shots hit the building’s brick siding, one hit a metal exterior door, and two went through the law firm’s windows.
Graeff consistently maintained that he didn’t intentionally fire his gun at a person. He pleaded guilty in October 2018 to unlawful use of a weapon and recklessly endangering another person. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the crime in 2019.
Graeff’s crime reflects adversely on his fitness as a lawyer and demonstrates a disrespect for law and the safety of others, the state supreme court said. Graeff also failed to communicate with clients during a critical phase of a lawyer malpractice case, the state supreme court said.
A man who answered a phone number listed for Graeff hung up when the ABA Journal called for comment.