Suspended Fort Wayne attorney R. Mark Keaton for years left profanity-laced voicemails and emails that threatened and harassed his daughter’s college roommate with whom he had developed an intimate relationship a decade ago. He was disbarred Tuesday.
The Indiana Supreme Court’s 12-page disbarment order in In the Matter of: R. Mark Keaton, 02S00-1302-DI-95, includes dozens of examples of what the Indiana Disciplinary Commission discovered – “threatening, abusive and highly manipulative” communications from Keaton to the woman identified as JD. She and Keaton “maintained a tempestuous long-distance relationship (from 2005) until March 2008, when JD permanently ended the relationship,” the order says.
Afterward, the court noted, JD recorded and preserved 90 voicemails from Keaton, and the court notes that from March 2008 to April 2010 at least 7,199 emails were exchanged, the vast majority sent by Keaton.
In a footnote, the court wrote, “One illustrative example among the many similar voicemails left by respondent and preserved by JD is the following:
“(Shouting) Call me the f*** back! I don’t know who the f*** you think you are. But I’ll tell you what, you better f***ing call me f***ing back now! You f*** with me one more time and this time you’ll really f***ing pay for it! And you need to think about it! Now you f***ing quit f***ing with me! I f***ing deal with your f***ing illness so f***ing long, don’t f*** with me another f***ing day! Not another f***ing day! You return my call right now!
“We agree with the hearing officer’s assessment that ‘[t]he true angry, hostile and threatening content and tone present in the voicemails can only be fully understood’ by listening to them. … Quite simply, they are profoundly disturbing.”
JD obtained a protective order against Keaton in April 2010, and in May of that year, Keaton was charged with felony stalking in Monroe County. “This criminal case, which would prove to be the first of several legal proceedings spawned by (Keaton’s) conduct toward JD, eventually was dismissed without prejudice by the State in April 2011 based on personal privacy concerns raised by JD,” the order says.
Keaton also threatened to post explicit photos of JD, following through on the revenge-porn threat in 2008, when he uploaded images to various adult-oriented websites. In one email, he wrote to JD, “Just so you know, they’ve been up on one site since March 1, when you started this s***. 151 pictures to date; 209,748 hits!”
The order says Keaton at one point hired a private detective to attempt to get JD’s contact information from her landlord after she changed her phone number.
“Put simply, Respondent engaged in – and continues to engage in – a scorched earth campaign of revenge in the wake of being dumped by JD seven years ago, in March 2008,” the court wrote in a per curiam opinion. “The scores of voicemails and thousands of emails sent by Respondent to JD are abusive, threatening, and extremely manipulative. Respondent exploited financial leverage and threats of violence and self-harm in attempting to coerce JD into communicating or meeting with him, and Respondent repeatedly carried through on his threats to disseminate intimate photos of JD and various unsupported accusations regarding her character to JD’s family, friends, academic and professional acquaintances, and the general public.
“Respondent showed up unannounced at JD’s residence, peeping into her bedroom window. Respondent also confronted JD in her law school library and later impeded her ability to get into her car and leave. After his conduct involving JD gave rise to criminal proceedings and a disciplinary investigation, Respondent filed three separate pro se lawsuits against JD and others, and later made duplicitous statements to the Commission in reference to those related proceedings.
“Most disturbingly, despite the entreaties of JD and several others, Respondent simply has refused to take 'no' for an answer. When asked at the disciplinary hearing what else JD might have told Respondent that would have convinced him to leave her alone, Respondent pointedly answered, ‘You know what, [c]ounsel, I don’t know if there is anything she could have ever said or done that would convince me[.]’ … And to this day Respondent refuses to part with the blog or with the explicit photos he continues to hold as leverage against JD; Respondent instead has told JD ‘[y]ou will simply have the mistakes you made plastered all over for all to see for the rest of your life.’”
In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income.
Keaton had been under suspension for failing to fulfill continuing legal education requirements, and is disbarred and assessed the costs of the proceedings which determined Keaton had committed violations of five rules of professional conduct.