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Cincinnati Bar Association v. Riggs-Horton

Supreme Court of Ohio

November 20, 2019

Cincinnati Bar Association
v.
Riggs-Horton.

          Submitted August 6, 2019

          On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2018-044.

          Beckman Weil Shepardson, L.L.C., and Kristen M. Myers; Jennifer K. Nordstrom; and Edwin W. Patterson III, Bar Counsel, for relator.

          Virginia M. Riggs-Horton, pro se.

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶ 1} Respondent, Virginia M. Riggs-Horton, of Bellevue, Kentucky, Attorney Registration No. 0085302, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 2009. She is also admitted to the practice of law in Kentucky.

         {¶ 2} In a September 4, 2018 complaint, relator, Cincinnati Bar Association, charged Riggs-Horton with professional misconduct arising from her misdemeanor conviction for promoting contraband at a detention center. The parties submitted stipulations of facts and misconduct and agree that a fully stayed six-month suspension is the appropriate sanction in this case.

         {¶ 3} The Board of Professional Conduct found that Riggs-Horton committed an illegal act that adversely reflected on her honesty or trustworthiness, recommended that a second alleged rule violation be dismissed, and agreed that a six-month suspension stayed in its entirety is the appropriate sanction for Riggs-Horton's misconduct. We adopt the board's findings of misconduct and recommended sanction.

         Misconduct

         {¶ 4} In 2017, Riggs-Horton was in a romantic relationship with Gary Chandler. Chandler had been in and out of prison during the course of their relationship.

         {¶ 5} That August, Chandler was incarcerated in the Campbell County, Kentucky jail for a parole violation. Riggs-Horton talked to Chandler on the phone daily, had personal visits with him at the jail twice a week, and visited him in her professional capacity as needed. During Chandler's incarceration, he was moved to the restricted-custody section of the jail.

         {¶ 6} Riggs-Horton had never been to the restricted-custody section before she made her first professional visit to Chandler there on August 19, 2017. At the time of her visit, she was not aware of the facility's rules-one of which specified that money could be given to a prisoner only through a guard. During that visit, Chandler asked Riggs-Horton whether she could give him some cash to purchase items from the facility's vending machines and stated that he was allowed to have up to $100 in $1 and $5 bills. Riggs-Horton replied that she had only two $5 bills and a $1 bill, and Chandler instructed her to hand him the money under the table. He explained that he would not receive the money for several days if it went through the proper channels. Video surveillance showed Riggs-Horton passing something to Chandler under the table.

         {¶ 7} After the meeting, guards searched Chandler for contraband and discovered smokeless tobacco but did not find the cash that Riggs-Horton had given him. Riggs-Horton was detained upon her return to the jail a few days later and was later charged with a violation of Ky.Rev.Stat.Ann. 520.060(1)(a), which provides, "A person is guilty of promoting contraband in the second degree when he knowingly introduces contraband into a detention facility or a penitentiary."

         {¶ 8} Riggs-Horton denied passing Chandler smokeless tobacco but admitted that she had passed him contraband in the form of $11. Through counsel, Riggs-Horton proposed that she be permitted to enter into a diversion program on conditions, including that she perform community service, offer a free divorce clinic to inmates at the jail, voluntarily suspend her criminal practice for three months, and make certain donations of ...


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