Court hears DiTrapano reinstatement arguments

By Chris Dickerson | Jan 29, 2014

CHARLESTON -- The fate of Dante DiTrapano's reinstatement now rests in the hands of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

On Tuesday, the court heard arguments regarding DiTrapano's reinstatement. He petitioned the court in 2012 after legal troubles that began in 2006 led to his license being annulled in 2007.

"I think both sides of two key legal issues were strongly argued, and the court clearly understood the positions taken by both sides," Robert H. Davis, DiTrapano's attorney, said Wednesday. "The issues are not easy. We are asking the court to make new law or clarify the law.

"One thing is clear. Dante DiTrapano without doubt, has the character, the sobriety and the skill in law to allow himself to be a very successful lawyer. I believe Dante should be readmitted to the practice of law."

During Tuesday's arguments, Davis argued that DiTrapano has met all the criteria for reinstatement.

“He has gladly accepted, and has met, the burden upon a petitioner applying for readmission after disbarment for criminal convictions,” Davis wrote in filings before the arguments. “We here argue and agree that we must present compelling proof, and that we have proven with overwhelming record proof …”

He also noted that no objection to DiTrapano’s reinstatement was presented during last year’s hearings before the ODC.

“There is simply nothing in the record to controvert the overwhelming evidence of support among the bar, the community, and the public at large,” Davis wrote. “DiTrapano lives with his family, has been gainfully employed at The Calwell Practice for five years, has a standing offer to be hired as an associate lawyer and supervised by Stuart Calwell, is in strong recovery from addiction, is active in the community, and is categorized by the USPD, the Department of Justice, and the United States Sentencing Commission as a ‘low risk’ offender.

“The goals of supervised release would be further advanced by Petitioner DiTrapano’s reinstatement to the West Virginia Bar and restoration of his law license.”

On the other side, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel said it wouldn't recommend DiTrapano's reinstatement even after having two reinstatement hearings for him last year. The panel heard positive testimony about DiTrapano from 16 people, including DiTrapano himself.

The office “has grave concerns that the reinstatement of any individual who has been convicted of two felony offenses, and who is currently serving a sentence of federal supervised release, would undermine the public confidence in the legal system,” Chief Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel Rachel L. Fletcher Cipoletti wrote in the ODC brief to the state Supreme Court. “Accordingly, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel opposes reinstatement in this matter.”

In 2007, DiTrapano’s law license was annulled after multiple criminal charges had been filed against him, starting with cocaine possession in Florida.

According to court documents, DiTrapano was arrested on March 14, 2006, in St. Petersburg while preparing to undergo rehabilitation for his relapse into drug addiction. After being clean for more than 15 years, court filings show that DiTrapano became addicted to cough syrup in 2004, which over the next year led to him abusing oxycodone and crack cocaine following the death of friend’s six-year old son in DiTrapano’s pool.

After posting bond on the condition he report to the treatment center, DiTrapano was arrested a month later in DeKalb County, Ga., on charges of driving on a suspended license, public indecency and possession of cocaine. He was released after posting bond.

Two months later, DiTrapano was indicted by a federal grand jury in Charleston on firearms-related charges. Following his arrest a day later, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary E. Stanley ordered he remain in custody pending trial.

After pleading guilty to the top count, Judge David Faber released DiTrapano on bond pending sentencing. As a condition of his bond, Faber order DiTrapano to begin a 28-day in-house drug treatment program at Prestera in Huntington.

Records show a month later, DiTrapano again appeared before Stanley following his arrest on unspecified violations of the terms of his home confinement. On Sept. 8, 2006, Faber ordered DiTrapano remain in custody pending sentencing.

Later on Oct. 10, Faber sentenced DiTrapano to six months in prison, and three years of supervised release. The terms of his release included DiTrapano’s participation in a substance abuse program.

Following his arrest on April 1, 2007, on simple possession of methamphetamine, the U.S. Probation Office asked that DiTrapano’s supervised release be revoked. Two weeks later, the probation office amended its revocation petition, stating that DiTrapano failed to appear for a scheduled urinalysis on April 5 and a specimen he provided on April 10 tested positive for cocaine and morphine.

According to court records, Faber on April 18, 2007, granted the probation office’s petition and ordered DiTrapano sentenced to 24 months in prison without any supervised release.

Three weeks after Faber sentenced DiTrapano to prison, the court annulled his license. Georgia’s high court followed suit and disbarred him.

More than two years later, DiTrapano was indicted on a count of information for making a false statement on loan application to United Bank.

According to court records, DiTrapano and another unnamed person sought a loan for $500,000 for a project in Kanawha City. In the loan paperwork, DiTrapano allegedly represented the co-signer personally signed the documents when court documents allege DiTrapano had forged it.

After receiving the funds, the indictment alleged DiTrapano took $35,000 and deposited it into his personal checking account and used it for “non-loan-related purposes.” After pleading guilty to the charge the previous August, DiTrapano on Jan. 14, 2010, was sentenced to one day in prison and five years of supervised release.

As a condition of his release, DiTrapano was ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Though he successfully performed the community service, which included participating in the state Bar’s Lawyers Assistance Program, DiTrapano’s petition for early termination of supervised release was denied in September. However, the court a month later agreed to entertain his motion for reinstatement of his license.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, case number 12-0677

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