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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2016
CONTACT: The Florida Bar Public Information Dept.,
The Florida Bar
Summaries of orders issued Dec. 23, 2015 – March 24, 2016
The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announces that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 24 attorneys – disbarring four, revoking the licenses of four, suspending nine and publicly reprimanding seven. Five attorneys were also placed on probation.
As an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the 102,000-plus lawyers admitted to practice law in Florida. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. To view discipline documents, follow these steps. Additional information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.
Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that rejects many who apply. It includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam. Historically, less than 5 percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission.
James William Batton, 954 Magnolia Ave., Panama City, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Feb. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Batton pleaded no contest to a felony in Bay County Circuit Court. In February 2015, Batton notified the Bar that he had been charged with failure to register as a sex offender, when he neglected to register his social media Facebook page with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. (Case No. SC16-278)
Jose Manuel Camacho, Jr., 1000 Brickell Ave., Suite 920, Miami, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Feb. 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Camacho was found in contempt for non-compliance. He failed to comply with a trust accounting records subpoena of July 7, 2015, and he failed to respond to an official Bar inquiry dated Sept. 2, 2015. (Case No. SC15-2114)
Richard Brian Carey, 1401 Forum Way, Suite 210, West Palm Beach, to be publicly reprimanded by publication, following a March 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) After being retained, Carey failed to adequately represent a client in a case to negotiate a settlement of a lien with a mortgage company. Complainant subsequently resolved the lien.
Matthew Brennan Cleary, III, P.O. Box 842, Labelle, disbarred effective immediately, following a Feb. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Cleary was found in contempt for violating the terms of a June 10, 2015, emergency suspension order. Cleary failed to notify his clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension and provide the Bar with a sworn affidavit listing the names
and addresses of all persons and entities that received a copy of his suspension order. He also continued to practice law while suspended. (Case No. SC15-2054)
Ronald David Combs, 706 N.E. 5th Place, Gainesville, suspended for three years, effective 30 days from a Feb. 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1977) Combs was charged with burglary of an unoccupied structure and entered into a 36-month pre-trial intervention agreement. (Case No. SC15-1144)
Bradley A. Conway, P.O. Box 530037, Orlando, to be publicly reprimanded and, further, placed on probation for three years, following a March 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1993) Conway failed to comply with his professional tax obligation to the Internal Revenue Service, including failing to file and remit funds he withheld from his employees’ wages for unemployment, Social Security, Medicare and income taxes. Conway informed the Bar that his law practice had not been profitable. (Case No. SC15-1410)
David Richard Damore, 227 Seabreeze Blvd., Daytona Beach, suspended for 60 days, effective March 17, following a Feb. 18 court order. Damore represented a criminal defendant on felony charges. In lieu of payment of legal fees, the client executed a quit claim deed in favor of the attorney, from jail. Damore directed his nonlawyer employee to notarize the deed despite the fact that she didn’t see the client execute the document. It became an issue six months later, after Damore negotiated a favorable plea
agreement for the client with the state attorney’s office. (Case No. SC16-196)
Robert William Darnell, 2639 Fruitville Road, Suite 201, Sarasota, to be publicly reprimanded by The Florida Bar Board of Governors, following a Feb. 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Darnell had practiced law with three other attorneys and each maintained an operating and trust account. When the company dissolved, it was discovered that Darnell had failed to deposit his overhead checks into the operating account and owed for 10 months of overhead payments. A Bar audit found that Darnell failed to withdraw his earned fees from the trust account. He also made payments for firm and personal expenses directly from his trust account. Darnell had to amend several federal tax returns. (Case No. SC16-197)
Mirta Desir, P.O. Box 1052, West Palm Beach, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Feb. 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Desir was found in contempt for non-compliance and failure to respond to official Bar inquiries
regarding a complaint. Letters were sent by the Bar via certified U.S. mail and email. Calls were also left on Desir’s voice mail.
(Case No. SC15-2177)
Wayne K. Ekren, 9330 Regency Park Blvd., Port Richey. The Supreme Court granted Ekren’s request for a disciplinary revocation, with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective immediately, following a Dec. 23, 2015, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. A disciplinary matter pending against Ekren was an allegation that he received $1,000 to represent a client while suspended and never refunded the money. (Case No. SC15-2093)
Santiago Eljaiek, III, 2601 S. Bayshore Drive, Suite 850, Coconut Grove, to be publicly reprimanded and, further, directed to attend ethics school, following a Feb. 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Eljaiek represented a couple in various real estate transactions. In 2009, he notarized a warranty deed that was given to him by the husband and affixed with both signatures. Three years later, the couple filed for divorce. The wife filed a complaint against Eljaiek, alleging that during the course of the dissolution of marriage action, she discovered that her husband had transferred ownership of their condo without her knowledge. (Case No. SC15-629)
Linda Dawn Hadad, P.O. Box 366, Daytona Beach, disbarred effective immediately, following a March 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Hadad engaged in a pattern of misconduct that included illegal drug use and sexual relationships with clients. She had inappropriate intimate relationships with inmates at the Volusia County jail while she represented them, and engaged in inappropriate phone calls, which were routinely recorded by the jail. Hadad also failed to timely appear for court hearings, neglected the criminal cases of several clients, closed her office without informing her clients and failed to respond to Bar inquiries regarding these matters. (Case No. SC15-1241)
Oscar Antonio Hotusing, 342 Coral Drive, Melbourne, to be publicly reprimanded by The Florida Bar Board of Governors, following a Feb. 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1993) During his campaign for judicial office in 2014, Hotusing engaged in several acts of misconduct. In the Florida Bar’s Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statement, Hotusing failed to completely and accurately state discipline imposed on him for rule violations. He also failed to list all of his prior employers and occupations for the last 10 years. In a radio interview, Hotusing made remarks that violated Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. (Case No. SC15-1442)
Charles Francis McKinnon, 12789 SW 280th St., Homestead. The Supreme Court granted McKinnon’s request for a disciplinary revocation, with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective immediately, following a March 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. Disciplinary matters pending against McKinnon involved allegations of misappropriation and mishandling of client trust funds; failure to comply with a grievance committee subpoena; and neglect of client matters. (Case No. SC16-4)
Austin Scott O’Toole, 18 Tremont St., Suite 205, Boston, Mass., suspended for 90 days, effective March 1, following a Feb. 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) O’Toole learned that a client was in violation of an injunction and ignored the situation. A complaint was subsequently filed against O’Toole for contempt for failure to pay plaintiffs the funds he’d received from his client. O’Toole also failed to disclose a conflict of interest between him and his client and failed to explain them to his client. (Case No. SC15-1882)
David Frank Petrano, 11502 S.E. U.S. Highway 301, Hawthorne, disbarred, effective immediately, following a Feb. 23 court
order. (Admitted to practice: 2003) Petrano was found in contempt for violating the terms of a Nov. 12, 2013, court order, placing
him on indefinite probation and ordering him to undergo an evaluation to determine his fitness to practice law. He displayed a
pattern of filing frivolous lawsuits that were not grounded in fact, and routinely disparaged litigants and judges. (Case No.
Neil Wayne Platock, 186 S.W. Hidden Cove Way, Port St. Lucie, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Feb. 1 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1985) Platock was found in contempt for failure to respond to an official Bar inquiry. A letter was delivered by certified U.S. mail to Platock and signed for, but never acknowledged. (Case No. SC15-2037)
Gary Craig Richards, 1221 E. University Ave., Gainesville, disbarred following a Feb. 24 court order, effective retroactive to March
28, 2015. (Admitted to practice: 1974) Richards was convicted by a jury of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was also found guilty of battery, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is incarcerated in a Florida Department of Corrections facility. (Case No. SC15-314)
Gilberto E. Sanchez, 201 S. Westland Ave., Tampa, suspended for 18 months, effective 30 days from a Feb. 25 court order. Further, upon reinstatement, Sanchez shall be placed on probation for two years. (Admitted to practice: 2004) A Bar audit revealed that Sanchez negligently handled his trust account and failed to maintain proper trust account records, which resulted in shortages on several occasions over a 2½-year period. Sanchez also commingled funds by improperly using money in his trust account to pay for firm expenses. He also failed to hold funds in his trust account that were entrusted to him for a specific purpose. (Case No. SC16-
Scott F. Sawtelle, 200 E. Graves Ave., Orange City, suspended for 91 days, effective 30 days from a Feb. 25 court order. Further, upon reinstatement, Sawtelle shall be placed on probation for three years and sign a rehabilitation contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance. (Admitted to practice: 2002) In several instances, Sawtelle failed to diligently represent clients after being retained. In January 2015, Sawtelle was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, but failed to timely respond
to the Bar’s inquiry regarding the matter. In March 2015, he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor drug possession and a related felony drug violation. (Case No. SC16-189)
David Andrew Taylor, III, 233 E. Bay St., Suite 1020, Jacksonville, to be publicly reprimanded by publication and further, placed on probation, following a March 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) Taylor approached and engaged in conversation about a case with opposing counsel’s client in the absence of the attorney. He also allowed his assistant to meet with inmates at the St. John’s County Jail and provide Taylor’s promotional information. Some had contacted Taylor first, others had not. Taylor’s staff members also mailed promotional materials to a correctional facility to inmates who had not previously established contact with his office (Case No. SC16-10)
Catherine Elizabeth Timilty, 11079 Longhill Drive N., Pinellas Park. The Supreme Court granted Timilty’s request for a disciplinary revocation, with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days from a Feb. 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. Disciplinary matters pending against Timilty involved allegations of trust account problems and failure to communicate with a client. (Case No. SC15-2338)
Nikasha Michelle Wells, P.O. Box 60, Mableton, Ga. The Supreme Court granted Wells’ request for a disciplinary revocation, with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days from a Feb. 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. Disciplinary matters pending against Wells involved allegations of trust account issues and failure to respond to Florida Bar disciplinary inquiries. (Case No. SC16-44)
George John Francis Werner, 1602 E. 3rd Ave., Suite B, Tampa, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter, and further, placed on probation for one year, following a Feb. 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) In 2013, Werner failed to timely notify The Florida Bar that he was adjudicated guilty for a DUI and ordered to complete community service. In February 2014, it was determined that Werner demonstrated behaviors that meet the criteria for alcohol abuse, based on an interview and testing positive in an announced urinalysis screen. The evaluator recommended a monitoring contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance as well as an intensive outpatient treatment program. (Case No. SC14-2509)
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Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."
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