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Lawyer Who Turned in Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel Gets Suspended

By Andrew Lu on November 29, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The lawyer/tipster who set off the Ohio State University football scandal that resulted in Jim Tressel's ouster and the team's current probation has been suspended from practicing law for a year.

Christopher Cicero made headlines a couple years ago when he reportedly tipped off then-coach Tressel that his players were trading team merchandise for tattoos, reports the Dayton Daily News.

However, by tipping off the coach, Cicero violated two provisions of Ohio's Rules of Professional Conduct, the state's Supreme Court has ruled.

Edward Rife, the owner of the tattoo parlor frequented by Ohio State football players, had consulted with Cicero about possible representation in an unrelated drug trafficking matter, reports the Dayton Daily News.

In their consultation, Cicero learned that several team members were trading team memorabilia like Big Ten championship rings, signed jerseys, and shoes in exchange for tattoos.

Cicero then reportedly passed this information on to Tressel, as this trading of team merchandise for tats violated NCAA rules for student athletes. But by trying to protect his beloved Buckeyes, Cicero ignored his professional duty of confidentiality to Rife, Ohio's Supreme Court held in a 5-2 decision.

While Rife never retained Cicero and was represented by a different attorney, the attorney-client privilege still applied. In general, the duty of confidentiality that an attorney owes a client involves both clients and potential clients. So if an attorney talks to a prospective client and learns private information, the attorney is prohibited from sharing that information with others or representing another client with conflicting interests.

While some skeptical individuals may consider Cicero's one-year suspension as revenge for what happened to Ohio State's football program, in reality Cicero did violate one of the basic tenants of attorney ethics.

And Buckeye fans should not hold too much contempt for Cicero anyway. If not for him, you might not have Urban Meyer.

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