Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lawyers behaving badly

UPDATE 4.15.2012:

In its typically deliberative (that is slow) fashion, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has gotten around to imposing "reciprocal discipline" on attorneys Stephan Addison and Benjamin Butler, whom the Illinois Supreme Court previously suspended for 60 and 30 days, respectively. The court reluctantly agreed to impose the same discipline in Wisconsin. As usual, there are dissents.

As detailed in the original post below, both men pleaded guilty to the felony of second-degree reckless endangerment. The recklessly endangering conduct was having sex with a woman on the hood of a car, though the woman originally alleged a sexual assault. According to Butler's attorney, the felony is based on the peril of car sex: "Someone could've fallen off and gotten hurt." (Though one wonders, then, why the woman wasn't equally culpable.)

In dissent, Justice Roggensack argues that these brief suspensions are woefully inadequate punishment for the admitted conduct. As she points out, the reckless endangerment conviction rests on an admission that both Butler and Addison engaged in "conduct that creates an
unreasonable and substantial risk of great bodily harm" and that they were aware of the risk. She cites other cases in which Wisconsin attorneys were suspended for years for seemingly less serious conduct such as drug possession, mail fraud, or retail theft.

To be fair, both Butler and Addison appear to have suffered mightily for their criminal indiscretions. They are convicted felons. And they lost their high-paying big-firm jobs. But, at the end of the day, they remain lawyers.

ORIGINAL POST 11.16.2010

My daily email from the Illinois State Bar Association included a link to a summary of recent suspensions and disbarrings by the Illinois Supreme Court.  I decided to give it a looksie.  Down in the suspension section, this caught my eye:
  • Stephan Walter Addison, Madison, Wis.  Mr. Addison, who was licensed in 2004, was suspended for 60 days. He was convicted in the Circuit Court of Green Lake County, Wisconsin, of felony second degree reckless endangerment and two counts of misdemeanor sexual gratification in public after engaging in sexual activity with a woman on the hood of an automobile in a public area. He was sentenced to three years of probation, thirty days in jail, and he was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service work. The suspension is effective on December 3, 2010.
"Interesting," I thought.  "'Sexual activity with a woman on the hood of a car.'  I wouldn't have thought that was illegal."  I scanned on.  Soon, I noticed this:

  • Benjamin Butler, Chicago.  Mr. Butler, who was licensed in Illinois in 2004, was suspended for 30 days. He was convicted in the Circuit Court of Green Lake County, Wisconsin, of felony second degree reckless endangerment, after engaging in sexual activity with a woman on the hood of an automobile in a public area. He was sentenced to three years probation, a term of one year and six-months confinement, stayed in full, and he was ordered to complete 300 hours of community service. The suspension is effective on December 3, 2010.
"This seems vaguely familiar," I thought.  "Wait a minute!  Two lawyers suspended for having sex on the hood of a car‽"  (Yes, my thoughts included the interrobang.)

Were they having sex with each other on the hood of the car?  No, the summary makes clear that the sex was "with a woman."  I decided I needed to investigate.  Turns out there is a pretty sordid affair lurking beneath these summaries.

Mr. Butler and Mr. Addison -- both formerly associates at prominent Chicago law firms -- were accused of much more than simply "engaging in sexual activity with a woman on the hood of an automobile in a public area."  They were accused of rape.  As reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal:
The woman met the two men, Stephan Addison, 28, of Medinah, Ill., and Benjamin Butler, 29, of Chicago - both 2004 graduates of the University of Wisconsin Law School - at a bar in Ripon. The men told her they were attorneys, and as the bar was closing the woman agreed to give them a ride to a lake house owned by Addison's family. She was sober, she later told authorities.
On the way to her car she asked the men, "You aren't some kind of weirdos, are you?" according to her written statement to the sheriff's office. Butler pulled out his business card and reassured her he was an attorney.
As they drove, the men groped her, pulled at her clothes and made sexually explicit comments, according to the criminal complaint. Once the car was parked at a boat landing near the house, she said, the men bit her, pulled her hair, tore off her clothes, dragged her from the car and pushed her onto the hood, where they raped her and forced her to perform oral sex. After she broke free and tried to get back in the car, she said, Addison pushed her face-down on the hood and raped her again.
She said she repeatedly told them to stop and never agreed to any sexual contact. Afterward, she went home crying, called a friend, took a bath and went to the hospital with a sheriff's deputy, according to her statement.

Addison was charged with first-degree sexual assault and Butler was charged with "being party" to the first-degree sexual assault (among other things).  After being booked, however, they were released the next day on just $1000 and $500 bail.  This was a sign of lenient things to come.  They both agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charges of reckless endangerment of safety and sexual gratification in public--though as a result they would still become convicted felons.  But the judge, William Michael McMonigal did not bring the hammer down.  From the Journal-Sentinal again:
In another move that stunned the town, McMonigal stayed prison sentences and sentenced Addison to 500 hours of community service and 30 days in jail with work release. Butler got 300 hours of community service. Neither had to register as a sex offender. 
 In addition to the criminal charges, attorney disciplinary proceedings began in Illinois.  A few months ago, the disciplinary commission issued its recommendations:  a 60-day suspension for Addison and a 30-day suspension for Butler.  The report's factual findings gave some credence to Butler and Addison's version of the fateful events, summarizing them as follows:
On the afternoon of August 5, 2005, and during the day-time hours of August 6, 2005, Respondent and his friends spent their time socializing and drinking alcohol. On August 6, 2005, at around 11:00 p.m. Respondent and his friends went to the Goose Blind, a tavern located in Green Lake, Wisconsin. There they consumed additional alcoholic beverages. At around 1:00a.m., on the morning of August 7, 2005, Respondent and his friends arrived at another tavern, Berts, in Ripon, Wisconsin. There they consumed additional alcoholic beverages.

Shortly, before Berts closed, around 2:00 a.m., Respondent met a woman, Dawn P___, on the dance floor. After Berts closed, Respondents and P__ were standing and talking outside the bar. P___ agreed to drive Respondents to Respondent Addison's family summer house in Green Lake. At some point during the evening, while discussing their respective employment, Respondent Butler told P___ that he and Respondent Addison were lawyers and handed P___ his attorney-at-law business card.

Respondents and P___ drove out of Ripon, heading toward Green Lake. P___ was driving her car, Respondent Addison was in the front seat, passenger side, and Respondent Butler was in the back seat behind P___. A few blocks from Respondent Addison's Green Lake residence, P___ pulled her car into the boat landing and put her car in park.

On August 7, 2005, Respondent, while intoxicated, engaged in sexual activity with P___ while on the hood of a motor vehicle that was parked on a public boat ramp in Green Lake, Wisconsin. P___ later complained to police authorities. Respondent responded to the complaint by giving a full statement to the police without any legal counsel present.
As you may have noticed, the publicly-available report names the victim.  Then again, under the plea agreement the only thing that Addison and Butler admitted to was "recklessly endangering" her safety.

This week, the Supreme Court followed the commission's recommendations and imposed the short suspensions. 

What have we learned?  Well, some of you probably learned what an interrobang is.  The rest of us, I guess, learned not to have sex on the hood of a car in public in Green Lake, Wisconsin.  I'm at a loss for any other lessons.


Apparently the lesson is that sex on a car is dangerous. The National Law Journal has this quote (registration required) from Butler's attorney:

Butler's attorney, George Collins, said that no convictions for sex crimes arose from the attorneys' conduct and that the reckless endangerment charge involved the incident on the car. "Someone could've fallen off and been hurt," said Collins, a partner with Chicago's Collins, Bargione & Vuckovich. Butler also is an attorney at the firm.


  1. Bart - Excellent reporting!

    And I am thrilled to learn of the interrobang‽

    As for lessons learned, I am afraid the cynical feminist perspective is that this is not so much a lesson learned as an assumption or perspective confirmed (yet again): privileged males on occasion behave horribly and the consequences to them tend to be relatively lenient (compared, say, to the consequences for the victim, or the consequences that would have befallen "less distinguished" perpetrators).

  2. I saw the same two posts in the ISBA email and wondered what was going on, which led me to your blog. Thank you for the reporting, but even though the woman's name is in the public record, I think you should have redacted it.

  3. Rape + Steve Hurley = plea to sex outside.

  4. As a Green Lake resident and someone who knew and partied with the 2 bad boy lawyers. I was not at all surprised to hear of the case against them. I had actually waited on them many times as a local bartender. As well as the night of the incident. Mr.Addison always walked around like he was a golden boy.He always had a shit eating, cocky grin on his face. Like he knew he was getting away with murder. Must've been an early premonition that he was sending to the rest of us. Because that's exactly what happened. Except it wasn't murder, it was RAPE! Also, shame on the people we leave in charge of our judicial system. The judge should've been taken out and sodomized for the bed of roses he laid out for the 2 grotesque men.

  5. Interesting update. One wonders what it would take for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to issue a unanimous decision.

  6. Love the comment, "the perils of car sex". Perhaps Gillette-Torvik should start a new blog that delves into this subject matter. How about "The perils of ______ sex". You would have no shortage of contributors. It'd be only a matter of time before you get that coveted interview from Maxim (maybe suffer through an interview w Hustler) for such creative literary genius.
    Imagine the fame that will follow! You could indulge in the typical shenanigans that come along with that kind of success. If anyone objects, wave them away and say "WE are the most interesting men in the WORLD".

  7. BlackhawksRule, your suggestion is under consideration. The perils of sex is certainly a leitmotif of the blog's. In the meantime, you may enjoy this post.


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