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Client initiated sex, attorney says



Published: Sat, April 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The encounter took place while the assistant prosecutor worked in his private practice.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Atty. Edward F. Sturgeon, an assistant Mahoning County prosecutor on unpaid leave, admits having sex with one client but denies trying to have sex with another, court papers show.

Sturgeon, assigned to Mahoning County Area Court in Canfield, went on voluntary unpaid leave March 9, the day The Vindicator reported allegations contained in a report compiled by Jonathan E. Coughlan, Supreme Court of Ohio disciplinary counsel. Sturgeon, 52, of Boardman, maintains a private practice there.

The allegations, which refer to conduct in his private practice, are that he received oral sex from a woman in 2003 and told a another woman in 2004 that she could pay his fees by having sex with him.

On Friday, Sturgeon's Columbus lawyers, Geoffrey Stern and Christopher J. Weber, filed an eight-page response on their client's behalf.

In the response, Sturgeon said the woman in March 2003, who had a custody issue, asked if there was "something else I can do?" He said they discussed legal alternatives, not physical interaction.

Sexual encounter

Sturgeon, in the response, said the woman briefly left the office, closed the door when she returned and then approached him in front of his desk. He admits receiving oral sex but said that the woman initiated it, court papers show.

He denies telling the second woman in March 2004 that she could pay his fees by having sex with him.

Sturgeon, through his lawyers, denies most of the women's versions of what else happened. For example, both women say he touched them, and he denies it.

He also denied telling the second woman that he has sex with clients all the time.

Next step

Coughlan's office is proceeding with disciplinary prosecution against Sturgeon. The lawyer is accused of violating the code of professional responsibility by misconduct.

The Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline has accepted the case for a hearing, and it will now be assigned to a three-member panel. A conference will be scheduled.

A hearing date will be set at the conference and discovery exchanged.

Prosecutor Paul J. Gains has said that if the allegations prove to be true, he will take action, which could mean reprimanding or firing Sturgeon.

The investigation of two complaints was a dual effort of the Mahoning County Bar Association and Coughlan's office.

meade@vindy.com




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