Lawyer charged with breaching confidentiality in Tressel emails

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A series of emails sent from Chris Cicero to Jim Tressel starting in April of 2010 was the first (mis)step in a series of events that ultimately led to the head coach’s resignation.

Now, the attorney and former OSU football walk-on has his own issues with which to deal.

According to both the Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel has filed a complaint against the Cicero (pictured, with Eddie George) for divulging the content of confidential conversations with a prospective client to Tressel.  The client is Edward Rife, the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor frequented by Buckeye players; a raid by federal agents last year yielded “a lot of Ohio State Memorabilia, including championship rings” that had been bought by Rife from the players and ultimately led to five-game suspensions for five players for having received impermissible benefits.

The documents said Rife met with Cicero on April 2, 2010, the day after federal officials raided Rife’s home in a drug raid. The agents also seized a large stash of Ohio State memorabilia, including gold pendants, jerseys, championship rings and jerseys.

“During the meeting, Rife expressed his concern that their conversation would remain confidential,” the disciplinary documents said. “(Cicero) assured Rife that everything Rife told (Cicero) would remain confidential.

“Rife proceeded to tell (Cicero) all the details surrounding his involvement in criminal activity. Rife also explained to (Cicero) how he came into possession of the OSU memorabilia seized during the raid.”

Shortly after that meeting, Cicero contacted Tressel with the information he received from Rife.  While Cicero did not request confidentiality in that initial email, a subsequent electronic missive from the lawyer to the coach contained a “What I tell you is confidential” note.  Tressel ultimately used “confidentiality” as a defense against his failure to inform the university of likely NCAA violations committed by a few of his players.

Rife, incidentally, pleaded guilty late last month to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 200 pounds of marijuana, and one count of money laundering.