A prominent Indianapolis employment attorney is facing a disciplinary complaint for his involvement in the botched investigation of a former Park Tudor basketball coach who later was convicted of coercing a student into exchanging sexually explicit images and texts.
Ice Miller LLP partner Michael Blickman, 65, is accused in an 18-page discipline complaint of possessing and copying child pornography, failing to immediately report child abuse and other ethical rule violations that could result in the Indiana Supreme Court taking action against his law license.
The firm said in a statement Wednesday that “Michael Blickman has devoted his life to family, community and the pursuit of excellence in the practice of law. Ice Miller stands behind Michael in this matter. Beyond that, Ice Miller does not comment on ongoing matters before the Disciplinary Commission.”
Blickman represented Park Tudor when the father of a 15-year-old student presented evidence that she and former coach Kyle Cox had exchanged sexually explicit texts and images. Blickman represented the prestigious northside prep school when he met with the father, his attorney Rob Dassow, and then-Park Tudor headmaster Matthew Miller on Dec. 14, 2015, to discuss the allegations.
But Blickman “was not only a lawyer for Park Tudor, he was a close friend of Cox,” according to the complaint from the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. Blickman also had two students at the school and supported its athletic programs, the complaint says.
At the meeting, the student-athlete’s father showed Blickman sexually explicit texts and videos that had been exchanged with Cox, which the complaint says constituted child pornography. Blickman asked the father to leave his daughter’s laptop computer that contained the images, which he did.
The complaint says that while Blickman was required under state law to immediately report the suspected child abuse, he didn’t. Further, the complaint says, Miller asked Blickman if Park Tudor was required to report the matter. “Although (Blickman) had previously advised Miller to report inappropriate touching of a student by another student in an unrelated matter in 2015, (he) …. told Miller he would research whether reporting was required in the matter involving Cox and the child.”
Blickman took the child’s laptop, a screen shot image of the child and the printouts of the sexually graphic and solicitous texts with him after the meeting, the complaint says. The next day, Blickman told Miller that a report to the Department of Child Services was required.
Miller and another school official met with Cox on the morning of Dec. 15, but Blickman did not attend. Cox resigned later that morning. DCS was not notified of the abuse until about 2 p.m. that day. But the complaint says the school failed to report that Miller and Blickman had viewed the images on the child’s laptop or that Blickman had possession of the sexually graphic texts and images.
That afternoon, Blickman drafted a confidentiality agreement, the complaint says, in which Cox would make a statement that he had resigned and would agree to keep the matter confidential. Blickman also “discussed a settlement offer for the child and the child’s parents with Dassow,” the complaint says.
The following day, the complaint says Blickman had an Ice Miller IT specialist make copies of the images and texts and then returned the laptop to Park Tudor, after which Miller returned it to the girl’s father. He then presented the proposed settlement agreement, under which “the child was prohibited from discussing her relationship with Cox to law enforcement or other authorities, therefore limiting law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute the crimes,” the complaint says.
A few days later, a DCS investigator contacted the child’s parents, and upon learning of a plans to interview the girl, Blickman emailed Dassow notifying him that her talking to authorities would violate the confidentiality agreement that had not been signed.
Authorities raided Cox’s home and executed a warrant at Park Tudor on Jan. 7, 2016. Members of the state child abuse task force interviewed Miller on Jan. 21, the complaint says. He committed suicide on Jan. 23.
Cox was charged and pleaded guilty in federal court of coercion and enticement of a minor. He is serving a 14-year prison term. The parents and child entered into a settlement agreement with Park Tudor and Ice Miller in June 2017, according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges Blickman violated the following Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct:
• For failing to immediately report suspected child abuse, Rule 8.4(b) and Rule 1.2(d);
• Because his representation of Park Tudor was adversely affected by his close personal friendship with Cox, Rule 1.7(a);
• For “imploring the Victim of a criminal act and her family from cooperating with law enforcement, seeking financial inducement or the withdrawal of financial benefit to discourage such cooperation, by engaging in conduct the purpose of which was to stop or limit a criminal investigation of a third person, and asserting a non-existent privilege to delay or hinder a criminal investigation,” Rule 8.4(b), and;
• For “possession and copying of child pornography, his failure to advise his client to fully cooperate with authorities where there was a lawful duty to do so, his failure to recognize child abuse, his failure to recognize the serious criminal nature of Cox’s conduct, (his) attempt to prevent the child and her family from cooperating with authorities, his failure to recognize the client’s lawful duty to immediately report the child abuse, his failure to recognize a conflict of interest based upon his personal interests,” Rule 1.1.
The complaint notes the close nature of Blickman’s former relationship with Cox, saying Blickman “attended Cox’s wedding, played golf with Cox, and attended Park Tudor sporting events with Cox. Cox’s wife was also a personal trainer for (Blickman and his wife).
The complaint against Blickman comes just days before his 40th year as a practicing attorney. He was admitted to practice in November 1978.