Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Attorney Suspended for Trafficking With Jail Inmate; Must Read for Attorneys Visiting Inmates

While looking for the Brizzi ruling, I ran across an interesting disciplinary case from the Supreme Court.  Here are the stipulated facts from the Court's opinion: 
In November, 2009, [Attorney Jerry T. Drook] went to a jail to visit a client awaiting trial for the murder of his wife. While there, [Drook] gave the client candy and written material that had not been authorized by the jail authorities.  The written material was a letter from the client's sister pertaining to conversations between the client's sister pertaining to conversations between the sister and a witness for the state. [Drook] was charged with two counts of trafficking with an inmate, which were resolved by a pre-trial division agreement under which [Drook] admitted the allegations.
These facts piqued my interest.  So I looked for more facts about what Drook did that landed him in such hot water.  Here's a Marion Chronicle-Tribune article I found embedded in the comment section of a website:
A Marion attorney has been charged with two counts of trafficking with an inmate after police say he brought items to accused murderer Scott Pattison, who is incarcerated in the Wabash County Jail.

Jerry Drook, 46, Marion, was charged with the two Class A misdemeanors Tuesday in Wabash County Superior Court. According to court documents, an initial hearing is set for 1 p.m. Dec. 14. Drook hadn’t been arrested as of Thursday afternoon.

Attorney Drook was charged with taking "gummy worms,"
gum and documents to an inmate.  Picture is of gummy worms.

According to the probable cause affidavit, inmates housed with Scott Pattison — a LaFontaine resident accused of murdering his wife Lisa, 36, on July 2 — told Wabash County sheriff’s detectives that Pattison had been receiving letters, gum and candy from his attorney.

After receiving the tip from the inmates, police set up video-recording devices in the jail library Nov. 20, before Drook and Pattison met. The device didn’t record audio. According to court documents, the video showed Drook removing several items from his satchel. One item was a large plastic bag containing gummy worms and a pack of gum. When Pattison walked into the library, Drook gave him both items. The video showed Pattison putting the package of gum in an accordion file he brought with him from his cell, according to court documents.

The video also showed Drook giving Pattison an envelope and some paperwork, which Pattison also placed in his file. Toward the end of their meeting, Pattison pulled a large packet of what appeared to be envelopes and folded notebook paper out of his file and gave them to Drook, who then placed the items in his satchel, according to court documents.

Staff at the jail told police nobody have given Drook permission to bring any contraband, including any correspondence, into the jail. Any type of mail is supposed to go through specific delivery procedures, which includes being inspected by jail staff.

After the meeting, jail officials searched Pattison and found a business envelope containing a handwritten letter, according to court documents. The envelope didn’t have any postage markings, but was from someone named Sharon. The letter was confiscated, according to court documents. Jail personnel also found a pack of gum and one unsealed, legal-size envelope on Pattison. The envelope contained a man’s gold diamond band, which Pattison said was brought to him at an earlier date. An 80-page notebook and a piece of white paper consisting of unknown information were also found, according to court documents.

After the meeting, detectives read Drook his Miranda Warnings and interviewed him. According to court documents, Drook said he didn’t know he couldn’t bring Pattison candy. He said he did have a package of gum, but that Pattison must have taken it off the table. Pattison told police the gum was from his mother, who’d given it to Drook to bring to him.

Police also asked Drook about the bag of candy that was inside his satchel, but he wouldn’t give police the bag or talk about its contents. Drook was then free to leave, according to court documents.

Thursday, Drook said he didn’t want to comment on the charges because he didn’t know anything had been filed.
Trafficking drugs is a felony, while trafficking other items, including tobacco and candy, is a misdemeanor, the sheriff said.

Himelick said he’s only had one incident recently where an attorney has brought a cell phone into the Grant County Jail. Though he doesn’t care if attorneys bring them in, Himelick said he doesn’t want attorneys using them while in the jail.

“It’s usually not very common with attorneys,” he said about trafficking with inmates.

Though inmates and other visitors are subject to searches, jail staff in Grant County don’t search attorneys because they’re trusted to not bring in contraband, Himelick said.

“We’ve always had a pretty good working relationship with the attorneys,” he said.

Himelick said he was surprised that Drook is being accused of the crimes because he’s never had any problems with the attorney.

But he said he would have handled the situation similarly to how Wabash did.

“It’s something I don’t take lightly,” Himelick said.

Bringing items into the jail is prohibited.

“That is not allowed, especially gum,” Himelick said. “Gum is absolutely forbidden in the jail.”
Okay, the attorney made a bad decision to, at the request of the inmate's mother, bring gum as well as "gummy worms" to the inmate.  But what I and every attorney in the state should be alarmed about is the classification of "correspondence" and other documents as "contraband" by the Grant County Sheriff that has to be reviewed and approved in advance. 

As an attorney, I've visited inmates at several jail and prison facilities throughout the state.  I have never been to a facility where I had not been searched because I am an attorney and I don't understand the Sheriff's policy not to search attorneys.  But I have also never had to tell authorities what documents I have for my client and allow them to review them in advance.  That's never been a requirement in any prison I have visited and this is just a jail containing pre-trial detainees.  (Note:  Prisons are allowed to take much stricter policies than jails which generally house people not yet convicted.)  I would be alarmed by such a requirement that could definitely intrude on attorney-client confidentiality.  Additionally, although the story treats the exchange of documents between Drook and his client as something sinister, the exchange of documents between an attorney visiting an inmate is an everyday occurrence. 

While Drook's criminal charges were disposed of by diversion, I think it's unfortunate that criminal charges were filed at all.  The Supreme Court suspended Drook for 30 days, citing as an aggravating factor a previous disciplinary violation.


marksmall2001 said...

The only items I ever have received or given to clients in jail or in prison are documents. I do so only after specifically asking for, and receiving, permission. I always have been allowed to give clients documents. I usually tell a client to mail me documents s/he wishes to give to me. Never have I been refused permission to receive or give documents to a client. If I know, prior to a visit, that a client wants to give me a sizeable batch of documents, I will tell him/her to obtain a gate release. Never has a prison official asked to review documents. At most, I have fanned the documents to show there is no other object contained within them. I even ask permission (never denied) to give a client my business card.

Cato said...

An attorney shouldn't have to ask permission of prison pigs prior to giving anything short of a saw blade or gun to a client.

Doug said...

Only marginally related, but a neat trick you'll see every so often is where a non-attorney friend of the inmate will use attorney letterhead or envelopes to get material into the jail to avoid the inspections that apply to non-privileged mail.

Sometimes they'll conceal contraband inside the envelope, creating a compartment inside it or some such.

Unknown said...

Looking for thoughts about a somewhat related issue...I am an attorney and I have a friend who I have known for many years. I have represented him on minor issues and have never charged him. Recently he has been incarcerated for a parole violation. Since he often asks me about legal issues I mark my mail legal mail so that it is merely screened for contraband but not read word for word. In my haste to send him a letter quickly I hand wrote the envelope instead of using a printed envelope. The mail was apparently confiscated and he was not allowed to receive it and I was denied an attorney visit and told it was "under investigation." He has been told that he cannot receive mail from me. Any thoughts about the legality of limiting inmate mail from an attorney/friend that contains no contraband and no other information other than personal words from a friend?