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Peeping Tom Lawyer Faces Disbarment. Is the System Rigged?

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on August 03, 2016 6:59 AM

A BigLaw associate who previously worked at the D.C. firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is facing the end of his career as a lawyer after he surreptitiously filmed a man undressing in a gym locker room. The ex-lawyer in question called the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility's damning report "a shame."

It's a matter of perspective, of course, but lawyers facing ethics issues have frequently observed that the ethics process is extremely one sided. At risk of sounding like Donald Trump, we have to ask, is this system rigged?

A Crime of Moral Turpitude

In 2009, Kelly Cross, a then associate at the D.C. firm of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, secreted a camera into a men's locker room and recorded a man changing clothes. The man being filmed discovered the camera and took it. At that point, stories diverge. According the version that ethics authorities are working with, Cross assaulted the man in order to retrieve the camera and offered the victim $1,000 in exchange for forgoing police involvement. Cross admitted to the voyeurism, but has denied everything else.

The BPR's report characterized Cross's crimes as ones of moral turpitude for which the usual penalty is disbarment.

Totality of the Circumstances?

A recommendation to disbar Cross appears to be on the harsher end of the spectrum of possible punishments. The committee that convened last year to hear Cross's case noted that unlike past cases involving sexual facts, disbarment cases involved a "forced sexual touching" or more vulnerable victims such as clients or children.

However, numerous facts weigh against Cross. For example, signs were posted that warned patrons of unauthorized filming within. The crime was further compounded by other aggravating facts, including alleged attempts by Cross to negotiate his way out of police involvement. Again, Cross denies this.

Cross has railed against the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for taking so long to bring charges against him, allowing witnesses and evidence to fade. "Unless you've been through this process, you don't get a sense of how stacked against you a lot of the process is," he said.

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