Filed May 6, 2011

In re Jeffrey Joseph Neppl

Commission No. 09 RT 3002

Synopsis of Review Board Report and Recommendation
(May 2011)

Neppl's name was stricken from the roll of attorneys in 2005 following his conviction for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Neppl filed a petition for reinstatement on February 11, 2009. The Administrator does not object to Neppl's reinstatement.

The Hearing Board found that Neppl met his burden of establishing that he is rehabilitated and recommended that his petition for reinstatement be granted. In its Report, the Hearing Board noted that Neppl did not submit as evidence any documents that would show the factual basis for his guilty plea and sentence. Consequently, the Hearing Board was unable to find that he testified accurately about the nature of his criminal conduct. This did not preclude the Hearing Board from recommending reinstatement.

The Administrator filed in the supreme court a petition to approve and confirm the Hearing Board's Report and Recommendation. The supreme court denied the Administrator's petition and remanded the matter for review. The Administrator then sought leave to file certified records from Neppl's criminal case pertaining to his guilty plea and sentencing and requested that the Review Board take judicial notice of the certified records. The Review Board granted the Administrator's motion and carefully reviewed the records from Neppl's criminal case.

The Review Board concluded that there were no fundamental inconsistencies between Neppl's testimony during the hearing in this matter and his admissions in his criminal case. While some of the details of his criminal conduct were confusing, Neppl admitted the essential facts of his misconduct and accepted responsibility for them. Therefore, the Review Board found no reason to disturb the Hearing Board's finding that Neppl was candid and forthright in presenting evidence in support of his petition, or its findings as to the remaining factors set forth in Supreme Court Rule 767(f). The Review Board recommended that Neppl's petition for reinstatement be granted subject to conditions requiring him to continue treatment for his addiction and mental health issues.


In the Matter of:


Petitioner-Appellee ,

No. 6226555.

Supreme Court No. M.R. 22990

Commission No. 09 RT 3002


On November 20, 2005 the Supreme Court granted Jeffrey Joseph Neppl's motion to strike his name from the roll of attorneys after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. On February 11, 2009, Neppl filed a petition for reinstatement. The Administrator does not object to Neppl's reinstatement.

Neppl presented evidence in support of his reinstatement, and the Hearing Board recommended that his petition be granted once his supervised release under the federal sentence was terminated. The federal court terminated Neppl's supervised release on June 10, 2010. On July 21, 2010, the Administrator filed a petition in the Supreme Court to approve and confirm the Report and Recommendation of the Hearing Board. On September 20, 2010, the Supreme Court denied the Administrator's petition and remanded the matter for review by this board. We reviewed the record, including the record in Neppl's criminal case, and recommend that Neppl's petition for reinstatement be granted with the conditions specified below.



Neppl was licensed to practice law in Illinois in 1989. He practiced with his father in Rock Island. In 2003, Neppl became addicted to cocaine. He used cocaine with his second wife, from whom he is now divorced. Neppl initially obtained cocaine from a bar in Moline but later began purchasing it from Genaro Gomez, a client he had represented in a custody matter.

Unbeknownst to Neppl, Gomez agreed to cooperate with the government in 2005 and recorded conversations with Neppl. Gomez's cooperation led to Neppl's arrest on February 28, 2005. He remained in custody throughout the criminal proceedings. On July 7, 2005, he pleaded to guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. 846 and possession with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. sec. 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C).

The plea was pursuant to a signed plea agreement. In the plea agreement the federal prosecutors and Neppl stipulated to the following pertinent facts:

The plea agreement detailed his drug transactions and relationship with Gomez. The factual basis for the plea covers seven pages. It includes details about his solicitation of drugs from his former client, holding drugs for other clients, helping Gomez hide drugs in his office, drug


conversations with Gomez, drug purchases totaling at least 400 grams of cocaine and other details common to a drug conspiracy.

On October 6, 2005 Neppl was sentenced. At the hearing the U.S. Attorney stated that the government was satisfied that he gave a complete and truthful account of his drug trafficking conduct and agreed that Neppl was entitled to a 2 point reduction under the federal sentencing guidelines for doing so. Neppl acknowledged that his conduct was wrong and stated that he was sincerely sorry. The plea agreement stipulated that both the prosecutor and defendant would recommend to the trial court that he be sentenced at the low end of applicable sentencing guidelines which they later agreed was 39 months. The joint recommendation was not binding on the judge.

The trial court after hearing from both the prosecution and defense sentenced Neppl to 46 months in federal prison on each count to be served concurrently followed by supervised release for 5 years. He also fined him $6,000. The trial court recommended that he serve his sentence in a minimum security facility and one in which he would be able to participate in a comprehensive drug treatment program. After serving about 25 months in federal custody, Neppl was released from custody on March 23, 2007.


About two years later, Neppl filed his petition for reinstatement. On October 15, 2009, Neppl presented evidence in support of his petition. On December 29, 2009, the Hearing Board issued its Report and Recommendation that he be reinstated subject to certain conditions, including the requirement that he offer proof that he had been discharged from his federal sentence. At the time he was still subject to the five-year period of supervised release.


Neppl filed exceptions to the Hearing Board's Report and Recommendation. His brief was filed on February 17, 2010. The next day he filed a motion in the United States District Court requesting that his supervised release be terminated. The Administrator was granted an extension to file his response brief following the anticipated ruling by the United States District Court on the motion to terminate the supervised release.

On June 10, 2010, the United States District Court granted Neppl's motion to terminate his supervised release. After notice of this ruling to the Review Board, the case was directed to the Illinois Supreme Court as an agreed matter pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(d)92). On July 21, 2010, the Administrator filed a motion with the Illinois Supreme Court to approve the Hearing Board Report and Recommendation and requested that Neppl be reinstated with conditions.

On September 9, 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court denied the motion and ordered this Board to review the case. On December 17, 2010, the Administrator requested that the Review Board take judicial notice of the certified records in U.S. v. Neppl, 05-40053, United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois at Rock Island. The Review Board granted that motion, and these records in addition to the record made in the Hearing Board proceeding have been considered by us in making our report.


At his reinstatement hearing Neppl described his drug habit and conviction. He began using cocaine to help keep himself awake and manage pain resulting from a back injury. He initially obtained cocaine from a bartender but then began purchasing it from a former client, Genaro Gomez. He purchased cocaine regularly from Gomez for about a year and half.


Neppl and his former wife used approximately one ounce of cocaine per week. All of Neppl's disposable income went toward his cocaine habit. Occasionally Neppl shared cocaine with friends. Neppl stated that occasionally he accepted money from his friends who offered to reimburse him for what he spent on the cocaine.

At some point Gomez asked Neppl to keep a safe in Neppl's office. Neppl testified that he did not have access to the safe but "had every reason to believe there was [sic] drugs or cash in it." He stated that he kept the safe in his office for less than a week, contrary to Gomez's statement that the safe "was there for quite a while."

Eventually, Gomez began cooperating with federal authorities and wore a wire while dealing with Neppl. Gomez asked Neppl to introduce him to a former supplier of Neppl's, and Neppl agreed to do so. Neppl called the former supplier, who indicated that he did not want to become involved because the deal with Gomez "sounded weird." At the time, Neppl owed Gomez $2,000 for a previous cocaine purchase. Neppl had in his possession an ounce of cocaine, which he offered to give to Gomez in exchange for erasing $1,000 of his debt.

Neppl became suspicious of Gomez after he received a call from the mother of Gomez's fiancée, who warned Neppl to watch out for Gomez. Neppl then contacted someone he knew at the State's Attorney's office and asked whether he was under investigation. Neppl's contact stated that she was not aware of an investigation but later refused to take his calls. Federal agents then approached Neppl and asked to talk with him about a drug scheme they were investigating. Neppl talked to them for "four days in a row" without the assistance of counsel. At sentencing, he received a two-point reduction in his sentence for cooperating with the authorities.


Neppl completed the nine-month Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) while in prison. An inmate who completes RDAP and meets all other relevant criteria may receive up to 12 months early release from custody. 18 U.S.C. sec.3621(e)(2)(B) (9/29/03); see also Federal Bureau of Prisons Program Statement 5331.02. While imprisoned, Neppl also completed a 40-hour group rehabilitation course and a 10-hour parenting course and participated in Alcoholics Anonymous. Neppl was released from prison to a halfway house, where he resided for two months.

Neppl has been a patient of Dr. Gonchigari Narayan, a psychiatrist and neurologist, since 1999. Dr. Narayan diagnosed Neppl with bipolar disorder. Initially, Neppl did not comply with his treatment and medication. He is currently compliant and Dr. Narayan described his condition as very stable. Dr. Narayan testified that Neppl should not have a problem returning to practice as long as he continues to comply with his treatment goals and medication.

Since his release from prison, Neppl has received treatment from addictions counselor John Sample. Sample testified that he is confident that Neppl will continue to refrain from using drugs. Neppl has not used drugs or alcohol since his arrest in 2005. He participates in the Caduceus program for professionals with addictions and attends monthly meetings.

Neppl presented character evidence from Judge Jeffrey O'Connor; Judge Lori R. Lefstein; Judge James G. Conway; attorney Michael J. Warner; certified public accountant Brian Neff; and Neppl's father, attorney James Neppl. All of the character witnesses testified that Neppl has been sober since his release from prison and they support Neppl's reinstatement. Judge Conway, Neff, and James Neppl further testified that Neppl is remorseful and disappointed in himself.


Neppl is currently employed as a salesman at Eriksen's Chevrolet. He presented testimony from Gary Koester, the assistant manager at Eriksen's Chevrolet, who stated that Neppl is a very hard worker and one of his top salesmen. Koester has seen no evidence that Neppl has relapsed. Additionally, the parties stipulated that Randy Allison, the manager of Eriksen's Chevrolet, would testify that Neppl is reliable, trustworthy, and extremely remorseful for his prior conduct.

Neppl testified that has not used alcohol or any illegal drug since his arrest. He passed all of his random drug tests while he was on supervised release. He obtained custody of his teenaged son who now lives with him. Neppl believes he is a better person now than he was prior to his arrest and is more aware of his shortcomings. He expressed shame for his actions and recognition of the seriousness of his misconduct.

Neppl testified that he has kept up with the law since his disbarment by using his father's law library and discussing legal issues with his father. He also used the law library while he was incarcerated.


An attorney who petitions for reinstatement bears the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that he should be reinstated. In re Martinez-Fraticelli, 221 Ill. 2d 255, 270, 850 N.E.2d 155 (2006). "The focus is on the petitioner's rehabilitation and character, with rehabilitation being the most important consideration." Martinez-Fraticelli, 221 Ill. 2d at 270, 850 N.E.2d 155. A petitioner is rehabilitated when he returns to a beneficial, constructive, and trustworthy role in his community. Martinez-Fraticelli, 221 Ill. 2d at 270, 850 N.E.2d 155.

We looked at the factors set forth in Supreme Court Rule 767(f):

(1) the nature of the misconduct for which the petitioner was disciplined;


(2) the maturity and experience of the petitioner at the time discipline was imposed;

(3) whether the petitioner recognizes the nature and seriousness of the misconduct;

(4) when applicable, whether petitioner has made restitution;

(5) the petitioner's conduct since discipline was imposed; and

(6) the petitioner's candor and forthrightness in presenting evidence in support of the petition.

There is no presumption in favor of reinstatement. In re Richman, 191 Ill. 2d 238, 247-48, 730 N.E.2d 45 (2000). The Hearing Board's factual findings in a reinstatement proceeding will not be reversed unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence, but its recommendation as to whether a petitioner should be reinstated is advisory. Martinez-Fraticelli, 221 Ill. 2d at 271-72, 850 N.E.2d 155.


It is undisputed that Neppl's drug offenses were serious misconduct that reflected adversely upon the legal profession. He recognized this when he admitted in his plea agreement that his conduct involved an abuse of trust. He purchased drugs from a former client and on one occasion paid for those drugs by bartering his services. He also once told the former client when talking about a drug purchase, "I am a lawyer and no one can ever know what we talk about." (A patently absurd position, but one the former client would not necessarily appreciate.) The Supreme Court has reinstated attorneys who have demonstrated their rehabilitation following convictions for drug offenses. In re Parker, 149 Ill. 2d 222, 595 N.E.2d 549 (1992); In re Beck, 08 RT 3006 (Hearing Board, Aug. 11, 2009), approved and confirmed, No. M.R. 22718 (Nov. 17, 2009); In re Wood, 07 RT 3004 (Hearing Board, June 27, 2008), approved and confirmed,


No. M.R. 21816 (Sept. 16, 2008). Accordingly, we agree with the Hearing Board that Neppl's misconduct does not, by itself, preclude reinstatement.


At the time of the misconduct, Neppl was 39 years old and had been an attorney for 14 years. There is no question that Neppl was aware that his conduct was wrongful, as any attorney should be, regardless of age or experience.


The Hearing Board found that Neppl recognized the seriousness of his misconduct and has accepted responsibility for it. In sentencing Neppl, the District Court judge came to the same conclusion. The evidence shows that Neppl has taken his recovery seriously and has not used alcohol or illegal drugs since he was arrested in February 2005. We have no reason to disagree with the Hearing Board's assessment.


Restitution is not an issue in this matter. However, the record does reflect that Neppl paid his $6,000 fine.


While in prison, Neppl addressed his addiction problems by participating in therapy and drug rehabilitation programs. Because he successfully completed this program, he was released from prison earlier than he would have been, had he not. Since his release from prison, he has continued to recognize and address the issue. While at the halfway house he participated in individual and group therapy. While on supervised release he regularly took drug tests, which he passed.

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Currently, Neppl attends weekly meetings as part of the Caduceus program, which assists professionals who are recovering from addictions. He also meets with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gonchigari Narayan, and a clinical professional counselor, John Sample. Dr. Narayan testified that Neppl is compliant with his treatment goals and medication. Dr. Narayan believes that Neppl could return to the legal practice without any problem. Likewise, Sample is confident that Neppl will continue to abstain from using drugs.

Since his release from a halfway house, Neppl has been employed as an automobile salesman at Eriksen's Chevrolet. His supervisor testified that he is an excellent employee. The Hearing Board found that Neppl's conduct has been exemplary since his name was removed from the roll of attorneys. The Administrator does not challenge this finding on review, and we have no reason to disagree with the Hearing Board.


Neppl's signed plea agreement provides a detailed account of his misconduct. In addition, the United States District Court and the federal prosecutor were clearly satisfied with his cooperation and candor. The prosecutor went so far as to state on the record that he was convinced that Neppl had given a complete and candid statement of his drug misconduct.

The Hearing Board found that Neppl was candid and forthright about his drug use and recovery, as well as his mental health issues. However, the Hearing Board questioned whether he testified accurately about his criminal conduct. Because Neppl did not submit as evidence copies of documents that would show the factual basis for his guilty plea and sentence, the Hearing Board was unable to find that Neppl accurately described the nature of his criminal conduct.

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After this matter was remanded, this Board granted the Administrator's motion to take judicial notice of certain documents pertaining to Neppl's guilty plea and sentence. Those documents include Neppl's plea agreement and transcripts from Neppl's change of plea hearing and sentencing hearing. We have carefully reviewed these documents. We looked very carefully at the question of his candor and have concluded there are no fundamental inconsistencies.

The Administrator's brief notes that there might be inconsistencies between Neppl's testimony at the reinstatement hearing and his admissions in the criminal case. In his written plea agreement filed in the United States District Court, he admitted that on one occasion CD-1 (now known to be Genaro Gomez) paid him with a half-ounce of cocaine for his representation of Gomez's friend. At the hearing on the reinstatement petition, Neppl was asked whether he accepted cocaine as payment for legal services provided to Gomez. He answered that question no. His answer was true. The record in the criminal case included a comprehensive summary of his relationship with Gomez. The government never reported that he did legal work for Gomez in exchange for cocaine. Such conduct was limited to Gomez's friend. At his reinstatement hearing no one asked him about the friend. In our view, the statement of the federal prosecutors to the District Court judge that Neppl provided a complete account of his drug activity is the compelling fact and overrides any concern in this regard.

Neppl denied in his reinstatement petition that he was a "drug dealer," despite his conviction for distribution of cocaine. In his reinstatement hearing Neppl admitted that he shared cocaine with his ex-wife and occasionally with friends. He also acknowledged that he accepted money from his friends who offered to reimburse him for what he paid for the cocaine. These statements are consistent with his statements when he pleaded guilty. We have reviewed

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the record and concluded that in saying he was not a "drug dealer" he intended to convey the idea that he was not dealing drugs as a business. The record supports this conclusion.

In the plea agreement Neppl admitted that he offered to hold Gomez's safe in his office and kept it there for over one month. He further admitted that Gomez gave him 1/16 of an ounce of cocaine in exchange for holding the safe. The plea agreement stipulated that he stated that Gomez periodically came to his office and withdrew cocaine from the safe. Sometimes Gomez sold the cocaine to Neppl and sometimes he took it away to sell to other individuals. At Neppl's change of plea hearing and his reinstatement hearing, he minimized by comparison his knowledge and circumstances about the safe by indicating that he really did not know what was in the safe, that it was only there for several days, and that he never purchased drugs being held in the safe. Neither the prosecutor nor the District Court judge felt that these differences were compelling. Neither do we.

The Administrator has pointed out that the Hearing Board noted that Neppl did not mention his conviction for conspiracy to distribute cocaine in his petition for reinstatement. We reviewed the petition and while it did not use the term "conspiracy" it clearly pointed out that he pleaded guilty to a violation of 21 U.S.C. 846 which is conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute. In addition, at his ARDC hearing, Neppl did testify about the events that formed the basis of his conspiracy conviction, i.e., his attempt to arrange a deal between his former supplier and Gomez. So he was not hiding anything.

The record clearly reflects that Neppl admitted the essential basics of his misconduct. Some of it is a bit confusing in detail, but that is not surprising given the nature of Neppl's addiction at the time.

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The Supreme Court has allowed a petitioner, like Neppl, some latitude in this regard especially where the petitioner has taken full responsibility for his wrong doing and demonstrated the he is rehabilitated as Neppl has. Two cases decided by the Supreme Court illustrate this point. In Martinez-Fraticelli, the Administrator objected to the petitioner's reinstatement, in part because of Martinez-Fraticelli's explanations as to why he participated in the misconduct giving rise to his conviction. Martinez-Fraticelli, 221 Ill. 2d at 278-279, 850 N.E.2d 155. The Administrator asserted that Martinez-Fraticelli's testimony was contrary to his guilty plea and demonstrated a lack of candor that should preclude reinstatement. The Hearing Board in recommending reinstatement noted that it was "troubled" by Martinez-Fraticelli's attempt to rationalize his behavior, but that his testimony as a whole was candid and forthright. Martinez-Fraticelli, 221 Ill. 2d at 278, 850 N.E.2d 155. The supreme court deferred to the Hearing Board's findings as to Martinez-Fraticelli's candor, noting that "[g]iven the nature of the evidence which petitioners usually present and the difficulty of accurately assessing the subjective qualities so important in a reinstatement case, this court has ordinarily given considerable weight to those findings of the hearing panel which represent an evaluation of the witnesses' credibility and the petitioner's candor, forthrightness and sincerity." Martinez-Fraticelli, 221 Ill. 2d 255 at 279-280, 850 N.E.2d 155 (2006). See also In re Fleischman, 135 Ill. 2d 488, 553 N.E.2d 352 (1990) (allowing reinstatement despite the petitioner's inability to reconcile some of his testimony in a federal proceeding with his description of his conduct in the reinstatement proceeding).

This case differs from cases in which the court has denied a petition for reinstatement due to a petitioner's lack of candor. For example, the court denied reinstatement in In re Powers, 122 Ill. 2d 18, 521 N.E.2d 921 (1988), because Powers failed to list on his petition

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numerous jobs and residences, as well as a drunk-driving conviction and a lawsuit filed against him for unpaid legal fees. In addition, Powers was not candid regarding his failure to make restitution to an individual whom Powers had defrauded. Similarly, in In re Mandell, 89 Ill. 2d 14, 431 N.E.2d 382 (1982), the petitioner falsely testified that he had made restitution to the victims of his fraudulent scheme and "emphatically denied" that he was guilty of some of the crimes of which he was convicted.

There is no dispute that Neppl recognizes the serious of his misconduct, accepts responsibility for it, and has taken the necessary steps to improve himself. The testimony of the witnesses clearly demonstrate that he has stabilized his life, and more importantly is dealing candidly with his addiction issues.


After considering all of the factors, Neppl met his burden of establishing that he is rehabilitated and fit to resume the practice of law. We recommend reinstatement with the conditions set forth by the Hearing Board requiring Neppl to continue treatment for his addiction and his bipolar disorder. These conditions, set forth below, would benefit Neppl and in our view and the Administrator's, protect the public and the legal profession. Both the Administrator and Neppl have no objection to these conditions that the Hearing Board recommended.


The following conditions shall be applicable during the first three (3) year period following Neppl's reinstatement:

  1. Petitioner shall comply with the provisions of Article VII of the Illinois Supreme Court Rules on Admission and Discipline of Attorneys and the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and shall timely cooperate with the Administrator in providing information regarding any investigations relating to his conduct;

  2. Petitioner shall notify the Administrator within seven (7) days of any arrest or charge alleging his violation of any criminal or quasi-criminal statute or

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  1. Petitioner shall attend meetings as scheduled by the Commission probation officer. Petitioner shall submit quarterly written reports to the Commission probation officer concerning the status of his practice of law and the nature and extent of his compliance with the conditions of reinstatement;

  2. Petitioner shall notify the Administrator within fourteen (14) days of any change of address;

  3. Petitioner's practice of law shall be supervised by an attorney acceptable to the Administrator. Petitioner shall notify the Administrator of the name and address of any and all attorneys with whom he establishes a supervisory relationship, and shall provide notice to the Administrator of any change in supervising attorneys within fourteen (14) days of the change. Petitioner shall authorize the supervising attorney to provide a report in writing to the Administrator no less than once every quarter, regarding the nature of Petitioner's work, the number of cases being handled by Petitioner, and the supervisor's general appraisal of the Petitioner's continued fitness to practice law;

  4. Petitioner shall continue a course of treatment with Dr. Gonchigari Narayan, or other psychiatrist acceptable to the Administrator, and shall comply with all treatment recommendations of the psychiatrist, including scheduled office appointments and the taking of medications as prescribed. Petitioner is to maintain copies of all his purchases of prescribed medications and submit them to the Administrator with his quarterly reports;

  5. Petitioner shall also continue in therapy with Mr. John Sample, a licensed clinical professional counselor, or other clinical counselor or therapist acceptable to the administrator, in accordance with the recommendations of his treating psychiatrist, and shall comply with all treatment recommendations of the counselor or therapist;

  6. Petitioner shall provide the necessary releases to authorize his psychiatrist, counselor or therapist to: (1) disclose to the Administrator on at least a quarterly basis information pertaining to the nature of the Petitioner's compliance with any treatment plan established with respect to Petitioner's condition; (2) promptly report to the Administrator Petitioner's failure to comply with any part of an established treatment plan; and (3) respond to any inquiries by the Administrator regarding Petitioner's mental or emotional state or compliance with any established treatment plans;

  7. Petitioner shall notify the Administrator within fourteen days of any change in treatment professionals;

  8. Petitioner shall abstain from the usage of alcohol and any unprescribed controlled substances:

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  1. Petitioner shall, as required by the Administrator, submit to random substance testing by a qualified mental health professional or facility approved by the Administrator, within eight (8) hours of receiving notice by the Administrator that he shall submit to the testing. The results of the tests shall be reported to the Administrator. Petitioner shall pay any and all costs of such testing;

  2. Petitioner shall participate in a Caduceus program designed for chemically dependent professionals, or a 12-step program such as Cocaine Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, or similar program acceptable to the Administrator, and attend at least one meeting per week. Petitioner shall also maintain a log of his attendance at the meetings and submit it to the Administrator with his quarterly reports;

  3. Petitioner shall report to the Administrator any lapse in his sobriety or usage of any unprescribed controlled substances within seventy-two (72) hours of that usage.

Date Entered: 6 May 2011

Respectfully Submitted,

Daniel P. Duffy
Chrystel L. Gavlin
Gordon B. Nash, Jr.