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WARREN State judicial panel alleges lawyer broke conduct code



Published: Wed, April 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The attorney is accused of lying in sworn depositions.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

and STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

COLUMBUS -- The state Supreme Court's board of commissioners on grievances and discipline has filed a complaint saying a local attorney violated the codes of professional responsibility.

The 19-page complaint accuses George Kafantaris of engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer's fitness to practice law and knowingly using perjured testimony or false evidence.

At the root: The allegations stem from a civil suit filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court in 1999 by a former secretary accusing Kafantaris of battery and sexual harassment.

"You say certain things to protect your family and you regret it afterwards," said Kafantaris, of Warren.

"The important thing was that I was honest with the jury in my trial."

According to the complaint, in sworn depositions before the 2001 trial, Kafantaris denied having sexual relations with office employees.

During the trial, however, he admitted on the witness stand having sexual relations with three employees.

"I'm a trial lawyer and I can't get up in front of a jury, given my respect for the system, and fib with them," he said.

Regrets 'fib': Kafantaris said that his law practice has suffered since the civil case, even though the jury found in his favor. "Did I fib in my deposition? Yes I did," Kafantaris said. "Do I regret it? Yes I do."

Jonathan E. Coughlan, of the disciplinary counsel, said a three-judge panel will decide if the attorney should face disciplinary action.

A hearing date has not been set.

The panel could recommend that Kafantaris receive a verbal or written reprimand, suspension or disbarment.

Karen Longstreth of Warren, who worked for Kafantaris in 1998, filed the civil lawsuit alleging he committed battery and sexually harassed her.

During the trial, Kafantaris admitted having an affair with Longstreth, but he said the affair was consensual.

New trial: Visiting Judge Dominick Olivito of Steubenville ruled in September that Longstreth should have a new trial.

The judge wrote there "is a high probability, if not a certainty, that the jury's verdict was based on false testimony of the defendant" before the trial in his deposition. A trial date has not been scheduled.

sinkovich@vindy.com

siff@vindy.com




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