The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Fourth Department, has suspended an Oneida County attorney from practicing for two years for various misconduct.
Attorney Timothy A. Benedict was admitted to practice law in January 2000 and has an office in Rome. The Grievance Committee of the Fifth Judicial District, in July 2020, filed a petition accusing Benedict of professional misconduct.
Benedict admitted that, in August 2018, he sent a client sexually explicit text messages and, in early September 2018, he told the client to come to his home, where he served her alcohol and had sex with her.
Benedict also admitted that the next day he again invited the woman to his home to have sex, but she declined and asked him for her case file.
Benedict told the client he would turn over the file only after he received a court order relieving him as counsel.
The judge presiding over the client’s case granted her application for an order of protection prohibiting Benedict from having any contact with the client.
Between March 2015 and July 2019 Benedict also was found in criminal contempt or willful violation of five court orders to produce financial records and pay child support and other financial obligations related to his own domestic relations proceedings.
In February 2019, in Oneida County Family Court, Benedict was found in willful violation of two court orders that directed him to pay child support and sentenced him to 180 days in jail for each violation.
Benedict was taken into custody on Feb. 19, 2019, and released the next day after paying child support of $66,853.36.
Benedict also admitted that, from January 2018 through August 2019, he used his attorney trust account as his personal account, depositing earned legal fees into the account more than 25 times and withdrawing funds from the account without issuing a check to a named payee more than 80 times.
He also admitted to using money from the trust account to pay personal expenses many times. In November 2018, the withdrawals for personal purposes led to a $125 shortfall in the account.
“The record reflects that respondent engaged in a relatively extended course of conduct in knowing violation of various ethical standards applicable to all attorneys, by engaging in sexual relations with a client in a domestic relations matter, disregarding his court ordered child support obligations, and using his attorney trust account as his personal bank account,” the court wrote.
“We conclude that respondent should be suspended from the practice of law for a period of two years and until further order of the Court,” the panel wrote.
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