Indianapolis attorney Arthur J. Usher IV’s rejected romantic advances toward a summer intern led him to have his paralegal email more than 50 attorneys a video clip purporting to depict the former intern nude in a film, according to the Indiana Supreme Court. Usher’s bid to discredit and humiliate her while she was seeking employment resulted in a three-year suspension on Friday.
Usher, who met Jane Doe in 2006 while he was a partner at Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, had moved to Krieg DeVault LLC when the former intern began seeking employment at Bose and elsewhere, according to the 14-page per curiam Supreme Court disciplinary order, In the Matter of Arthur J. Usher, IV, 49S00-1105-DI-298.
“Although (Usher) expressed an interest in having a romantic relationship with Jane Doe, she consistently declined, telling him she wished to remain only friends,” the order said. “In 2008, their relationship began to deteriorate due primarily to (Usher’s) continued pursuit of a romantic relationship.
“In July of 2008, (Usher) asked the producer of a horror movie in which Jane Doe had appeared to help him obtain a clip from another movie in which Jane Doe also appeared. The producer sent (Usher) a clip from that movie that appeared to show Jane Doe in a state of undress,” according to the opinion. “After (Usher) advised Jane Doe of his meeting with the producer, Jane Doe decided to end their friendship. (Usher) then began attempting to humiliate Jane Doe and to interfere with her employment prospects.”
After the former intern accepted a job offer at Bose, Usher provided the film clip to a Bose attorney and “attempted to convince the attorney that Jane Doe’s appearance in a horror film in a state of undress would have an adverse effect on the ability of Bose to retain and/or attract clients. Suspicious of (Usher’s) motives, the attorney did not take (Usher’s) suggestion to send the clip to the firm’s executive committee. Jane Doe commenced her employment with Bose despite (Usher’s) efforts to interfere.”
Usher then had his paralegal go to Kinko’s, establish an email address based on a Bose attorney’s name, and send an email containing the film clip to at least 51 attorneys, many of them at Bose, but others also at Barnes & Thornburg, Baker & Daniels, Locke Reynolds, Ice Miller and Krieg DeVault, the court notes.
According to the order, the email subject line was, “Firm slogan becomes ‘Bose means Snuff Porn Film Business’ w/addition of (Jane Doe).” The email contained contrived dialogue “intended to appear to be an exchange of opinions among lawyers and other fictitious persons,” according to the order.
Usher did this even though he knew Doe hadn’t taken off her clothes for the scene, the court said. “Jane Doe takes pride in her acting and does not hide the fact that she has appeared in a number of films. In a scene in the clip, Jane Doe’s character undresses, but a body-double was used in the part showing nudity. (Usher) was aware of this fact but did not disclose this in the email, leaving the impression that Jane Doe appeared topless in the movie.
“The hearing officer rejected (Usher’s) assertion that the email was a prank or humorous. Rather, it was a mean-spirited and vindictive attempt to embarrass and harm Jane Doe, both personally and professionally,” the court said.
When Kreig DeVault was presented with a protective order that Doe had obtained against Usher, the firm demanded his resignation, according to the order. The court in a footnote acknowledges Doe filed a civil action against Usher that he said was settled “‘amicably’ on the eve of trial with his payment of an undisclosed amount to Jane Doe.”
While four of the justices agreed on a three-year suspension without automatic reinstatement, Justice Stephen David dissented and would have disbarred Usher. The court said Usher “has shown no substantial remorse or insight into his misconduct. It is this lack of insight that leads us to believe that a substantial sanction is necessary.”
Usher, who had been a sole practitioner after he was forced to leave Kreig DeVault, was found to have violated the Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.3(a)(1), 8.1(a), 8.1(b), 8.4(a), 8.4(c), and 8.4(d), “by, among other things, engaging in a pervasive pattern of conduct involving dishonesty and misrepresentation that was prejudicial to the administration of justice,” the court said.