BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD

OF THE

ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION

AND

DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

NICHOLAS DOMINIC LAPONTE,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 3128065.

Commission No. 2011PR00016

 

JOINT STIPULATION AND RECOMMENDATION FOR
A REPRIMAND BY THE HEARING BOARD

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorneys, Tracy L. Kepler and Christine P. Anderson, and Respondent Nicolas Dominic LaPonte, by his attorneys Enrico J. Mirabelli and Daniel M. Locallo, jointly stipulate that Respondent violated Rules 8.4(a)(3) and 8.4(a)(5) of the 1990 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and, as discipline, recommend that he be administered a reprimand by the Hearing Board, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770(h) and Commission Rule 282. The Administrator and Respondent stipulate as follows:

Stipulated Findings of Fact

1. The Administrator and Respondent jointly stipulate that the evidence would establish the following facts: At approximately 1:30 a.m. on March 14, 2004, Respondent and client John Zonzo ("Zonzo"), were arrested in Berwyn, Illinois, after an eyewitness saw two individuals, one of which fired shots into a brick bungalow in the 2400 block of East Avenue in Berwyn, Illinois. The four residents of the home were asleep at the time the shots were fired. On September 14, 2004, the Cook County State's Attorney filed a four-count information that charged Respondent and Zonzo with the offenses of aggravated discharge of a firearm, in

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violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.2(A)(1), and criminal damage to property, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/21-1(1)(A). Respondent was also charged with two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, in that he knowingly carried, in a vehicle and on or about his person, a firearm without a valid firearm owner's identification card ("FOID"), in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(A)(1)(3)(C). On April 11, 2006, following a bench trial before the Honorable Thomas M. Tucker, the Court granted Respondent's motion for a directed finding on the charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm and criminal damage to property and said charges were dismissed, but found Respondent guilty of two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon for failure to have a valid FOID, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(A)(1)(3)(C). On September 28, 2006, Judge Tucker sentenced Respondent to twelve months of probation and fines and court costs totaling $555. On October 12, 2006, Respondent filed his notice of appeal. On December 24, 2007, the Illinois Appellate Court for the First Judicial District entered an order reversing the trial court's decision and remanding the case for a new trial. On November 29, 2010, before the Honorable Carol Kipperman, the Assistant State's Attorney amended Counts III & IV to misdemeanor unlawful use of a weapon, in that Respondent knowingly carried in a vehicle or about his person a firearm (a .38 caliber gun) without a valid firearm owner's identification card ("FOID"), in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4), both misdemeanors. On November 29, 2010, before the Honorable Carol Kipperman, Respondent pled guilty to Counts III and IV, the court entered a finding of guilty and sentenced Respondent to 24 months of misdemeanor probation, completion of a routine mental health evaluation and counseling to be directed and/or monitored by probation and $345 in costs and fees. On September 13, 2012, Judge Kipperman granted an early successful termination of Respondent's 24 month misdemeanor probation. It is further noted that on March 30, 2006, co-defendant Zonzo pled guilty to aggravated discharge of a

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firearm and criminal damage to property. On May 10, 2006, Zonzo signed an affidavit stating he was the individual that had discharged the weapon on March 14, 2004 and placed the weapon under the driver's seat which was occupied by Respondent.

Factors in Mitigation

2. Respondent has no prior disciplinary history. No individual was injured in the events that took place on March 14, 2004. Respondent understands the seriousness of his misconduct and has expressed remorse and has successfully completed the period of probation and paid all court costs and fines.

3. Respondent has volunteered for several years on the West Side, assisting and representing the young, the middle aged, whether married or single, and senior citizens in various matters such as foreclosure defense, landlord/tenant issues, social service benefits, utility problems and social security issues. Respondent continues to assist individuals in said community and others. Since 2005, Respondent has devoted his solo practice to workman's compensation, personal injury, and criminal defense, on a pro bono or sliding scale basis.

4. If this matter proceeded to a hearing, several lawyers, judges and clients would testify to Respondent's excellent reputation for truth and veracity.

Recommended Discipline and Legal Discussion

5. The Administrator and Respondent agree and jointly recommend that a reprimand be administered by the Hearing Board pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770(h) and Commission Rule 282, as the appropriate discipline in this matter.

6. In In re Adams, 97 SH 04 (Reprimand delivered March 31, 1997), the attorney received a reprimand after he was found guilty of failing to stop after having an accident involving a personal injury and failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident. The attorney was

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convicted and fined for his misconduct. The Hearing Board found that the attorney engaged in a criminal act that reflected adversely on the attorney's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer. After considering the misconduct and significant mitigating evidence, the Hearing Board found that a reprimand was the appropriate sanction.

7. In In re Edwards, 97 CH 28 (Reprimand delivered August 12, 1997), the attorney pled guilty to possession of 4.9 grams of cannabis in the Belize International Airport. The attorney was fined $1,000. The Hearing Board took into account Respondent's unblemished history and his cooperation with the Administrator during the course of the investigation. Based on the misconduct and mitigating evidence, the Hearing Board reprimanded the attorney.

8. Lastly, in In re Trevino, 99 CH 27 (Reprimand delivered November 3, 1999), the respondent was reprimanded based on his having been convicted of the Class A misdemeanor of leaving the scene of an accident. The Hearing Board took in into consideration the respondent's expressed remorse, cooperation and the fact that he had not been previously disciplined.

9. Under the circumstances of this case, a reprimand is consistent with prior hearing panel decisions and is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case.

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WHEREFORE, the Administrator and Respondent jointly recommend that the Hearing Board issue a reprimand, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770(h) and Commission Rule 282.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By: Tracy L. Kepler
     
Counsel for Administrator
      130 E. Randolph Dr., Suite. 1500
      Chicago, IL 60601
      Telephone: (312) 565-2600

 

Nicolas Dominic LaPonte, Respondent



By: Enrico J. Mirabelli
      Counsel for Respondent
      Beermann Pritikin Mirabelli Swerdlove
      161 N. Clark St., Ste 2600
      Chicago, IL 60601
      Telephone: (312) 621-9700

      Daniel M. Locallo
      Counsel for Respondent
      7625 West Gregory
      Chicago, Illinois 60656

     
Telephone: (773) 213-3430

 

BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD

OF THE

ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION

AND

DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

NICHOLAS DOMINIC LAPONTE,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 3128065.

Commission No. 2011PR00016

 

REPRIMAND

Based upon the agreement and stipulations of the parties, the panel of the Hearing Board hereby makes findings, and reprimands and admonishes you, Nicholas Dominic LaPonte, as follows:

1. On March 14, 2004, you and client (John Zonzo) were arrested after an eyewitness saw two individuals, one of which fired shots into a brick bungalow in the 2400 block of East Avenue in Berwyn, Illinois. The four residents of the home were asleep at the time the shots were fired. On September 14, 2004, you were charged with the offenses of aggravated discharge of a firearm, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.2(A)(1), criminal damage to property, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/21-1(1)(A), and two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, in that you knowingly carried, in a vehicle and on or about your person, a firearm without a valid firearm owner's identification card ("FOID"), in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(A)(1)(3)(C).

2. On April 11, 2006, in a bench trial before the Honorable Thomas Tucker, the Court granted your motion for a directed finding on the charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm and criminal damage to property and said charges were dismissed. On April 11, 2006, you were found guilty of two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon for failure to have a

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valid FOID, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(A)(1)(3)(C). On September 28, 2006, you were sentenced by Judge Tucker to twelve months of probation and fines and costs totaling $555. You filed an appeal. On December 24, 2007, the Illinois Appellate Court for the First Judicial District entered an order reversing the trial court's finding on the remaining charges and remanded Case No. 04 C 40826 for a new trial. On November 29, 2010, before the Honorable Carol Kipperman, the Assistant State's Attorney amended Counts III & IV to misdemeanor unlawful use of a weapon, in that you knowingly carried in a vehicle or about your person a firearm (a .38 caliber gun) without a valid firearm owner's identification card ("FOID"), in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4), and you pled guilty to those amended counts. On that same date, Judge Kipperman entered a finding of guilty and sentenced you to 24 months of misdemeanor probation, completion of a routine mental health evaluation and counseling to be directed and/or monitored by probation and $345 in costs and fees. On September 13, 2012, Judge Kipperman granted an early successful termination to your 24 month misdemeanor probation. In so doing, you engaged in criminal conduct in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(3) and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the 1990 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.

3. In determining that a reprimand is an appropriate sanction in this case, we have considered the nature of your misconduct and that you have never been previously disciplined. You have successfully completed your period of probation and have paid all costs and fines imposed, and you have expressed remorse for your actions. We also have considered your record of pro bono service and that there would be testimony of your excellent character and reputation for truth and veracity by several judges, lawyers, and clients.

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WHEREFORE, Nicholas Dominic LaPonte, you are hereby REPRIMANDED. You are admonished not to engage in such misconduct in the future and to strictly comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. You are further admonished that this disciplinary action is of public record and will be considered in the event of any future disciplinary proceedings relating to you.

  Respectfully submitted,

     Patrick Blanchard, Chair
John P. Ratnaswamy
 Frederich J. Bingham