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

FILED -  MARCH 14, 2011

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Tracy L. Kepler, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b) and 761(c), complains of Respondent Nicholas Dominic LaPonte, who was licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois on October 29, 1980, 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:

COUNT I
(Criminal conviction for Unlawful Use of a Weapon)

1. At approximately 1:30 a.m. on March 14, 2004, Respondent and John Zonzo ("Zonzo"), were arrested in Berwyn, Illinois, after an eyewitness saw one of the men fire several shots into a brick bungalow in the 2400 block of East Avenue in Berwyn, Illinois. The residents of the home, including two minors, were asleep at the time the shots were fired.

2. 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 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), based upon the incident described in paragraph one, above. The Clerk of the Court docketed the matter as People of the State of Illinois v. Nicholas LaPonte and John Zonzo, case no. 04 C4 40826.

3. On April 11, 2006, following a bench trial before the Honorable Thomas M. Tucker, the Judge granted Respondent's motion for a directed finding on the charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm and criminal damage to property, 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).

4. On September 28, 2006, Judge Tucker sentenced Respondent to twelve months of probation and fines and court costs totaling $555.

5. On October 12, 2006, Respondent filed his notice of appeal.

6. On December 24, 2007, the Illinois Appellate Court for the First Judicial District entered an order reversing the trial court's decision and remanding case no. 04 C4 40826 for a new trial.

7. On November 29, 2010, the Assistant State's Attorney amended Counts III & IV to unlawful use of a weapon, in that Respondent knowingly carried on 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.

8. On November 29, 2010, 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 mental health evaluation and counseling to be directed and/or monitored by probation and $345 in costs and fees.

9. As a result of the order of conviction and the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. committing criminal acts, unlawful use of a weapon without a valid FOID card in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4), that reflect adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(3) of the 1990 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. conduct which is prejudicial to the administration justice in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the 1990 Rules of Professional Conduct; and

  3. conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

COUNT II
(Failure to Report a Criminal Conviction to the Administrator)

10. The Administrator realleges the facts set forth in Paragraphs one through eight of Count One, above.

11. At all relevant times, Supreme Court Rule 761(a) provided that it is the duty of an attorney admitted in this state who is convicted in any court of a felony or misdemeanor to notify the Administrator of the conviction in writing within thirty days of the entry of the judgment of conviction.

12. A conviction for unlawful use of a weapon without a valid FOID card in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4), is a conviction for a Class A misdemeanor.

13. Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 761(a), Respondent was required to notify the Administrator of his conviction in case no. 04 C4 40826 on or before December 29, 2010.

14. At no time did Respondent notify the Administrator of his conviction in case no. 04 C4 40826, as required by Supreme Court Rule 761(a).

15. By reason of the conduct outlined above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failure to notify the Administrator of his conviction in violation of Supreme Court Rule 761; and

  2. conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts of the legal profession into disrepute in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

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



 

Tracy L. Kepler
Counsel for the Administrator
One Prudential Plaza
130 East Randolph Drive, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601-6219
Telephone: (312) 565-2600

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:   Tracy L. Kepler