BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD

OF THE

ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION

AND

DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

LONNIE L. LUTZ,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 1711687.

Commission No. 2013PR00083

FILED ---  August 5, 2013

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), by his attorney, Denise Church, pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 753, complains of Lonnie L. Lutz, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 10, 1977, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, and which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770: 

COUNT I

(Battery - Celia Lawrence)

1. At all times alleged in this complaint, there was, in effect a criminal statute in Illinois, 720 ILCS 5/12-3, which provides, "Battery. (a) A person commits battery if he intentionally or knowingly without legal justification and by any means, (1) causes bodily harm to an individual or (2) makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual."

2. At all times alleged in this complaint, there was in effect a criminal statute in Illinois, 720 ILCS 5/12-1, which provides, "Assault. (a) A person commits an assault when, without lawful authority, he engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery."

3. At all times described in this Complaint, Respondent was the Coles County Public Defender.

4. On September 30, 2012, Celia Lawrence ("Lawrence") was arrested on charges related to possession of a controlled substance, and traffic-related offenses.

5. On October 10, 2012, the State charged Lawrence by information with possession of methamphetamine and Morphine, in violation of 720 ILCS 646/60(a) and 720 ILCS 570/402(c). The case was docketed as People v. Celia Lawrence, Coles County case number 12 CF 354.

6. On October 11, 2012, Respondent was assigned to Lawrence's cases, including case number 12 CF 354.

7. Following the court appearance in case number 12 CF 354 on October 11, 2012, Respondent asked Lawrence to come back to his office. Lawrence agreed.

8. On October 11, 2012, at Respondent's office, Respondent asked Lawrence about the events on the day of her arrest. Lawrence described the events, and also told Respondent that her husband, who resided in Arizona, was terminally ill and in hospice care.

9. During their conversation, Respondent then stood up, reached over to Lawrence and hugged her, then kissed her on the mouth, and put his tongue in her mouth. Lawrence said nothing but did not return the kiss.

10. Respondent then said he could work something out with the State's Attorney on Lawrence's case, and started rubbing her back. He asked Lawrence if his rubbing "felt good."

11. Lawrence responded that the "whole thing" made her nervous and upset.

12. Respondent then reached down and touched Lawrence's breasts, over her shirt and reached between her legs and rubbed her vaginal area. He then put her hand on his pants, over his erect penis, and said "see what you do to me?"

13. Respondent told Lawrence that he was going to Springfield for the weekend, and asked if she would like to go with him. Respondent told Lawrence he would tie her to the bed while he was at the conference. Lawrence did not respond.

14. Lawrence's mother then called Lawrence on her cell phone, and Lawrence told Respondent she had to leave, and she left his office.

15. On or after October 11, 20122, Respondent attempted to contact Lawrence four to five times by telephone on several occasions. Lawrence took one call and asked Respondent if her bond could be lowered. Respondent agreed to seek a bond reduction.

16. On October 18, 2012, Respondent appeared with Lawrence before the court and requested a reduction in bond. The court reduced bond by $500.00. Respondent then offered Lawrence a ride home and she told him that her mother was picking her up. Respondent then asked Lawrence to go back to his office to wait, and she agreed.

17. When Respondent and Lawrence were in his office following the court hearing, Respondent did not discuss her case. Respondent locked the door, and kissed Lawrence and again inserted his tongue into her mouth. Respondent touched Lawrence's breasts under her shirt, and touched her between her legs, over her pants. He also rubbed her shoulders.

18. Lawrence started to leave and Respondent asked her to come back the following Saturday "when no one was there." Lawrence asked why, and Respondent said "I want to lick your pussy and suck your clit."

19. Lawrence did not attend the Saturday appointment, nor did she speak to Respondent again after October 18, 2012.

20. After her second meeting with Respondent, Lawrence retained a private attorney, Jeanine Garrett. On November 15, 2012, the court vacated Respondent's appearance in all of Lawrence's pending cases in Coles County.

21. By reason of his conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. committing a criminal act, battery, 720 ILCS 5/12-3, that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, in violation of Rule 8.4(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. overreaching the attorney-client relationship;

  3. engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and

  4. engaging in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

COUNT II
(Battery - Bobbie Beringer)

22. The Administrator realleges paragraphs 1 through 3 of Count I as paragraph 22, 23 and 24 of this Count II.

25. On February 5, 2010, Bobbie Jean Beringer ("Beringer") was charged by information with the offense of theft over $300, in violation of 725 ILCS 16-1. The case was docketed as People v. Beringer, Coles County case number 2010 CF 52.

26. On July 26, 2010, Respondent was appointed to represent Beringer in case number 2010 CF 52.

27. Following the court appearance on July 26, 2010, Respondent asked Beringer to meet him at his office on Saturday, August 14, 2010.

28. On August 14, 2010, Beringer and her then-boyfriend, Claude Pittman ("Pittman"), drove to Respondent's office. Pittman waited in the car while Beringer went into Respondent's office.

29. Respondent and Beringer were the only people present in Respondent's office when Beringer entered the office.

30. Beringer sat down in a chair in front of Respondent's desk. Respondent did not sit at a chair behind his desk, but pulled up a chair so he was sitting directly in front of Beringer. Respondent placed one of his legs between Beringer's legs, and began to rub Beringer's leg slowly.

31. Respondent thereafter asked Beringer questions about her personal life, including questions about her boyfriend.

32. After Beringer told Respondent she could not work due to a neck injury, Respondent got up and walked behind Beringer and started rubbing Beringer's neck and shoulders.

33. Beringer asked Respondent if he treated all his clients this way and Respondent said "only the special ones."

34. Respondent sat down after rubbing Beringer's shoulders and started rubbing her leg again.

35. Beringer was feeling uncomfortable and stressed, got up and told Respondent she had to leave.

36. Respondent stood and hugged Beringer, pulling her body close to his so that their bodies were touching.

37. After Beringer left Respondent's office, she entered the car where Pittman was waiting for her, and she started crying. After Beringer told Pittman what had happened, she and Pittman went to the Charleston police department and made a report.

38. The Charleston police department referred the matter to the Coles County States' Attorneys office, and no charges were filed.

39. On August 16, 2010, Respondent withdrew from case number 2010 CF 52.

40. By reason of his conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. committing a criminal act, battery, 720 ILCS 5/12-3, that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, in violation of Rule 8.4(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. overreaching the attorney-client relationship;

  3. engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and

  4. engaging in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

COUNT III
(Battery - Tammy Hamilton)

41. The Administrator realleges paragraphs 1 through 3 of Count I as paragraph 41, 42 and 43 of this Count III.

44. On July 18, 2012, Tammy Hamilton ("Hamilton") was charged by information with the offense of theft, in violation of 725 ILCS 16-1. The case was docketed as People v. Hamilton, Coles County case number 2012 CF 242.

45. On August 13, 2012, the court appointed Respondent as Hamilton's attorney in case number 2012 CF 242.

46. Following her court appearance on August 13, 2012, Respondent asked Hamilton to meet him for an appointment on Saturday, August 18, 2012. Hamilton agreed to Respondent's request.

47. On Saturday, August 18, 2012, Hamilton went to Respondent's office at 11:00 a.m. After Respondent let Hamilton in to his office, Respondent locked the door behind them and took her to a conference room. No one else was present at Respondent's office.

48. After Hamilton sat down, Respondent pulled up a chair next to her and said "I'm glad I got assigned to your case."

49. Hamilton asked Respondent if he usually had Saturday appointments and Respondent said "I do if there is a pretty blond woman."

50. Respondent then said to Hamilton "tell me about yourself," and asked her about her boyfriend, whether she had had "affairs" and whether she had "affairs" while seeing her current boyfriend. Hamilton responded that she loved her boyfriend and would not have an affair.

51. Respondent started touching Hamilton's face, and Hamilton told Respondent she felt weird about him touching her. Respondent said "I don't want you to feel weird about it."

52. During the approximately 45 minutes that Hamilton was in Respondent's office, Respondent did not ask her many questions about her case. Hamilton stood up and told Respondent she had to leave, and she left his office.

53. Hamilton's next scheduled appearance in case number 2012 CF 242 was on August 27, 2012. She did not appear as scheduled because she forgot about the court date. Later on August 27, 2012, Hamilton called Respondent about the missed court date.

54. Respondent told Hamilton that he "covered" for her and that "there are different ways to pay me back."

55. Respondent then asked Hamilton to come to his office on Saturday, September 1, 2012 for another appointment. Hamilton agreed to go, but later asked her boyfriend, Bruce Brewer ("Brewer") to come with her so she would not have to be alone with Respondent.

56. On September 1, 2012, Hamilton and Brewer went to Respondent's office. Respondent discussed her case with her, and she and Brewer left after 15 minutes.

57. At Hamilton's next court date, September 4, 2012, after the hearing Respondent asked Hamilton to wait for him in the hallway outside the courtroom. Hamilton waited for him on a bench.

58. Respondent came out of the courtroom and sat next to Hamilton, close enough so that his legs were touching her legs. Hamilton moved down the bench several times, and each time, Respondent also moved down the bench so that he was sitting close to her.

59. Respondent touched Hamilton's inner thigh, between her waist and knee and rubbed her thigh for about five seconds. Hamilton again moved away from Respondent.

60. Respondent said "are you afraid of me" to Hamilton and she said "No, it just looks like you want to sit right on top of me."

61. Respondent then said "would you like that?" and Hamilton said "no" and she got up and left.

62. On November 5, 2012, following another court date in case number 2012 PR 242, Respondent again asked Hamilton to wait for him in the hall. Hamilton waited on the bench, and Respondent came out of the courtroom and sat next to her, and told her she would have to do two weekends in the county jail. He then touched her inner thigh, and Hamilton stood up and said "I've had enough of you touching my thigh." Respondent said he "didn't mean anything" by it.

63. By reason of his conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. committing a criminal act, battery, 720 ILCS 5/12-3, that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, in violation of Rule 8.4(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. overreaching the attorney-client relationship;

  3. engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and

  4. engaging in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

WHEREFORE, the Administrator requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.

Denise Church
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission
3161 West White Oaks Drive, #301
Springfield, Illinois 62704
Telephone: (217) 546-3523

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  Denise Church
Counsel for the Administrator