The Columbus Dispatch revealed today that Columbus lawyer Christopher T. Cicero was the “unnamed attorney” that sent e-mails to Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel starting in April 2010 warning that some players were giving away signed memorabilia in exchange for tattoos from a parlor owner, Edward Rife, who happened to be the subject of a federal drug trafficking investigation.
The revelation, which was scooped by Yahoo Sports, led to Ohio State’s self-report to the NCAA and a 2-game suspension for Tressel coupled with a $250,000 fine.
Copies of Ohio State’s March 8, 2011, letter to Julie Roe Lach, the Director of Enforcement Services at the NCAA, that includes the emails between Coach Jim Tressel and, apparently, Christopher T. Cicero can be read by clicking here: OSU’s Report including the Tressel emails.
The Dispatch reports that “Cicero, a lawyer with a checkered past  represented the tattoo-parlor owner, Edward Rife, in 2003 when Rife was a key witness in a murder trial.”
I have no personal knowledge of any of these facts. I’m just reading the paper and internet articles, just like you. However, if the reports are accurate and Cicero did send the emails to Tressel, some of Cicero’s content is troubling from the lawyer’s perspective. Cicero had an attorney-client relationship with Rife in 2003. While it is unclear from the emails whether there is a current and formal representation of Rife by Cicero, our rules of professional conduct state that a, “lawyer who has formerly represetend a client in a matter…shall not…use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as these rules would permit…or…reveal information relating to the representation except as these rules would permit.”
In one of the emails, Cicero tells Tressel that he had Rife “in my office for an hour and a half last night.” Then, Cicero goes on to discuss the substance of his meeting with Rife held in his law office. I have never met Mr. Cicero. I have never met Mr. Rife. I have no idea what the substance of the conversations were other than what the email to Jim Tressel recounts, but I do know that our rules of professional conduct state that “a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client, including information protected by the attorney client privilege under applicable law, unless the client gives informed consent….”
I have no idea what motivated Christopher Cicero to send the emails to Tressel, if he did. But, I do know that the content of the emails from an attorney about his own client is troubling.
One of my biggest pet peeves is reading commentary, stories, facebook status updates, or hearing coffee shop talk from people with sharp opinions when they are barely informed of all of the facts to arrive at their conclusions. With that in mind, I reiterate that the Columbus Dispatch article this morning contains no admission by Cicero that he authored the emails. Also, I have no personal knowledge of what transpired in the meeting between “the lawyer” and Rife discussed in the emails, or whether the two were meeting as friends or if it was a client meeting with his lawyer to discuss a problem. I simply have a hunch, perhaps an educated hunch, that this issue is long from over for any lawyer that was in this position.