Sanction proposed by ex-U.S. prosecutor facing misconduct claims over law intern is rejected

REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
  • Former assistant U.S. attorney sought "fully stayed" six-month license suspension
  • Attorney resigned from U.S. post, opened solo office

Dec 8 (Reuters) - A former U.S. prosecutor in Ohio who resigned over allegations of workplace misconduct involving a law school intern lost his bid on Wednesday to secure a deal in an ethics case that could have let him keep practicing without any suspension of his license.

Mark Bennett and the Ohio office of disciplinary counsel had agreed to a six-month license suspension that would not take effect if the former Akron-based assistant U.S. attorney stayed out of trouble.

His alleged misconduct included an unwanted touching of the adult intern, sexual banter and a request for nude photos. The ex-prosecutor has "expressed regret and remorse," filings in the case show.

Bennett and his lawyer did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

A hearing panel of the Board of Professional Conduct of the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the proposed negotiated resolution, according to Wednesday's order, and said Bennett's hearing remains scheduled for February.

Richard Dove, director of the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct, said in an email on Thursday "the panel members voted to reject the agreement in favor of conducting a hearing in the case at which the respondent will testify."

The committee could ultimately still consider, if the parties present it, a "fully stayed" license suspension.

The Ohio Supreme Court has the final say on what discipline, if any, is imposed in attorney misconduct cases.

Bennett, 53, resigned over a 2020 U.S. Justice Department investigation of his interaction with the intern in the U.S. attorney's office.

Bennett had been a prosecutor since 2007. He has since opened a solo law office.

In a joint filing on Dec. 5, a lawyer for Bennett and the Ohio disciplinary office said Bennett "abused a position of authority over a law clerk by subjecting her to unwanted sexual comments and an unwelcome physical touch."

Bennett's alleged conduct caused the intern, who was 24 when she started her post, to have "anxiety and fear over her future job prospects."

Bennett's lawyer, Richard Koblentz, and an attorney for the disciplinary office argued that Bennett's "conduct is less egregious than those where the court imposed actual suspensions."

A representative from the Ohio bar disciplinary office on Thursday did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment.

The case is Ohio Disciplinary Counsel v. Bennett, Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court of Ohio, No. 2022-034.

For Ohio disciplinary counsel's office: Joseph Caligiuri and Matthew Kanai

For Bennett: Richard Koblentz of Koblentz, Penvose & Froning

Read more:

Ex-federal prosecutor faces ethics complaint over behavior towards intern

Reporting by Mike Scarcella

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