A state ethics board has recommended the suspension of an attorney who posted an incriminating video of his client on the internet. The attorney told the board that at the time he posted the video and promoted it using social networking sites, he believed that it exonerated his client from the accusations that he had purchased drugs by showing that a police informant had planted the contraband.
Unfortunately his interpretation of the events in the video was incorrect and instead of helping his client he exposed images that made it appear more likely that he was guilty of the accusations. As a result he later advised the client to take a plea bargain instead of proceeding to trial.
The attorney realized that his interpretation of the events in the video was incorrect when he watched it again on a larger screen and saw that his allegations that police had planted drugs on his client was incorrect. An ordinary amount of diligence prior to posting the video would likely have revealed this sooner and perhaps could have prevented the attorney from making this highly detrimental mistake.
Along with that issue, the attorney also failed to obtain proper informed consent from his client to post the video. He claims that they agreed to post it, but there is no written documentation to support the fact that the client agreed and understood the implications and risks. Since the decision ultimately hurt his case, the client may be able to seek a retrial based on incompetent representation. He could also seek damages in a legal malpractice suit from his attorney to compensate him for the additional penalties he faced as a result of the mistake.
Source: ABA Journal, “Should lawyer who posted video implicating client be disciplined?” Debra Cassens Weiss, June 12, 2013.