The disciplinary hearing against a prominent Ice Miller employment attorney who represented the Park Tudor School during a sex scandal involving the boys basketball coach began Monday, when the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission began the administrative prosecution.
Michael Blickman and his team of defense attorneys from Hoover Hull Turner appeared before hearing officer and Senior Judge Terry Shewmaker on Monday to begin the hearing in In the Matter of Michael Allen Blickman, 18S-DI-553. Through his involvement with the investigation into former Park Tudor basketball coach Kyle Cox — who was convicted of coercing a 15-year-old female student into exchanging sexually explicit images and texts — Blickman is accused of possessing and copying child pornography created at Cox’s behest, failing to immediately report child abuse, and other attorney ethical violations.
According to Seth Pruden, the lawyer representing the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, Blickman and former Park Tudor headmaster Matthew Miller took possession of the victim’s laptop and other materials provided by her father, then copied the materials purportedly in the name of evidence preservation. However, Pruden told Shewmaker that it was not Blickman’s job to preserve evidence that otherwise would be illegal to possess — that was the job of law enforcement.
To that end, Pruden said Blickman and Miller worked together to “stonewall” law enforcement under the theory of privilege. The commission attorney also alleged that the delay in reporting the abuse of the victim was a violation of Indiana law.
But former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Theodore Boehm, now a practicing attorney representing Blickman, painted a different picture of the facts. According to Boehm, Blickman needed time to research Indiana’s child pornography laws, so he wasn’t initially aware that the “sexting” that had gone on was considered child porn.
What’s more, Boehm said, Blickman wasn’t aware of Indiana’s child abuse reporting requirements, but as soon as he became aware of those requirements, he advised Park Tudor of its obligations.
All of Blickman’s actions stemmed from a desire to protect his client’s needs and to ensure confidentiality as requested by the school and the victim’s family. His failure to recognize the criminal law implications of the situation — especially considering his background in employment law — does not reflect adversely on his character or fitness to practice law, Boehm said.
Most of Monday morning’s questioning focused on the victim’s father, whose name is not being used in the public proceedings to protect the victim and her family. The man, under Pruden’s questioning, recounted how he discovered explicit messages, photos and videos on his daughter’s communication devices, then engaged in amateur sleuthing to identify Cox as the person on the other end.
The father called a meeting with Miller, who called Blickman. The victim’s family was likewise represented by counsel, Rob Dassow. It was at this meeting that the father provided Blickman and Miller with the laptop and related materials, though he said he was surprised to learn later that a flash drive had been inserted into the computer, and its operating system had been accessed.
According to the father, the Indiana Department of Child Services reached out to him in the immediate aftermath of Cox’s identity being revealed. A meeting was scheduled, but the family cancelled that meeting at the behest of the school, according to the father.
Miller and Blickman had presented the family with a confidentiality agreement that would have prevented such a meeting. Though the family did not sign the agreement, the father said they acquiesced to the school’s request to cancel the meeting in an effort to focus more of their efforts on their daughter.
Multiple times during questioning, the father indicated that he hoped to keep the identity of his daughter and family confidential, though he said he never asked that no investigation into Cox be conducted.
While Blickman’s legal team has not yet begun putting on his defense, they called a character witness out of order to accommodate a scheduling conflict. Michael Harrington, the top legal official at Eli Lilly & Co., testified that he knows Blickman both personally and professionally and said Blickman’s reputation is “stellar.” Regardless of the outcome of the disciplinary action, Harrington said he will still trust and respect Blickman, noting that even since the disciplinary charges were filed, he’s asked Blickman to serve as a mentor to younger attorneys.
Check back with theindianalawyer.com and see the Oct. 2 issue of Indiana Lawyer for more on this case.