No. 79 DB 2009 (Bucks County)
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Chief Justice Castille
Attorney Registration No. 89512
CASTILLE, C.J., SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, ORIE MELVIN, JJ.
This matter is before our Court following the issuance of a Report and Recommendation by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (hereafter "Board"). The Board recommended that Respondent Anthony C. Cappuccio be suspended from the practice of law for a period of five years, retroactive to July 30, 2009, after he pled guilty in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County to various offenses, including three counts of endangering the welfare of children, a third-degree felony. After the receipt of the Board's recommendation, this Court issued a rule to show cause why Respondent should not be disbarred from the practice of law. Respondent filed a response to the rule, requesting oral argument under Pa.R.D.E. 208(e)(3) (giving an attorney the "absolute right" to oral argument upon request when this Court issues a rule to show cause). This Court heard oral argument on May 8, 2012. For the reasons stated herein, we now enter an order disbarring Respondent from the practice of law, retroactive to July 30, 2009.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (hereafter "ODC") and Respondent entered into a Joint Stipulation of Fact. Thus, the facts are undisputed. Respondent was admitted to practice law in 2002. Respondent was hired as a Deputy District Attorney for Bucks County following graduation from law school and was promoted to Chief Deputy District Attorney in 2007. He also served as Chief of the Grand Jury unit and Chief of the Homicide by Vehicle unit.
From about January 2005 until June 2008, Respondent served as a "Youth Fellowship Group Leader" for a Methodist Church in Perkasie, Pennsylvania. On several occasions from March 2007 through July 2008, he supervised youths under the age of 18 from the church youth group and accompanied them to rock concerts. At these concerts Respondent purchased and supplied alcoholic beverages to three minors and also smoked marijuana with them.*fn1 During this same period Respondent also attended football games, played pool and went to restaurants accompanied by members of the youth group. The minors were permitted to attend the concerts and remain out late because the parents trusted Respondent in light of his position as a church youth group leader and as a Chief Deputy District Attorney.
From May through September of 2008, Respondent engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with victim #1. The physical relationship began with kissing and eventually escalated to mutual oral sex. The incidents occurred on approximately twelve separate occasions and took place in various public parking lots, the victim's home, and Respondent's home. During this time Respondent told victim #1 not to reveal the relationship to anyone due to the victim's age and Respondent's marriage. The relationship was consensual and the victim was over the legal age of consent relating to sexual offenses as defined by 18 Pa.C.S. § 3101, et seq. See, e.g., 18 Pa.C.S. § 3122.1 (defining statutory sexual assault upon person under sixteen years of age).
In April 2008 Respondent was confronted by his wife about his relationship with victim #1. Nevertheless, he continued to engage in the sexual liaison with victim #1 for several more months.
A criminal investigation was instituted against Respondent on September 5, 2008, after Respondent and victim #1 were discovered by a police officer partially clothed in an automobile parked in a public shopping center. Respondent resigned from his position at the Bucks County District Attorney's office the next day. On September 15, 2008, Respondent engaged in another sexual encounter with victim #1 at Respondent's home. Respondent has had no further contact with victim #1.
As a result of the investigation, a criminal information was filed against Respondent. On March 10, 2009, Respondent entered a guilty plea to three counts of endangering the welfare of children, 18 Pa.C.S. § 4303(a)(1), one count of criminal use of a communication facility, 18 Pa.C.S. § 7512(a), three counts of corruption of minors, 18 Pa.C.S. § 6301(a)(1), and three counts of furnishing liquor or malt or brewed beverages to minors, 18 Pa.C.S. § 6310.1(a). The endangering children and criminal use of a communication facility are offenses classified as felonies of the third degree. The trial court initially sentenced Respondent to house arrest for a period of six to twenty-three months, followed by probation. However, Respondent was re-sentenced to six to twenty-three months in a Bucks County Criminal Facility for the endangering children conviction, five years' probation for the criminal use of a communication facility, two years' probation consecutive to the prior counts for the corruption of minors, and no further penalty for furnishing liquor. Respondent served his incarceration at Northampton County Prison and was released to house arrest on October 15, 2009. Respondent's term of probation is scheduled to end in 2017.
Following Respondent's conviction and sentencing, this Court entered an order on July 30, 2009, placing Respondent on temporary suspension pursuant to Pa.R.D.E. 214(f)(1), and referring the matter to the Board for further proceedings. The ODC then filed a Petition for Discipline, charging Respondent with professional misconduct arising from his criminal convictions. A disciplinary hearing was held before a Hearing Committee appointed by the Board on December 11, 2009. During those hearings, the ODC presented evidence of Respondent's conviction as well as the fact that his criminal conduct was publicized to the community on electronic media and in newspaper articles.
Respondent presented the testimony of Dean Dickson, a licensed psychologist with a private practice. Mr. Dickson treated Respondent following his arrest and until his incarceration. Sessions resumed by telephone following Respondent's release from prison and Respondent resumed in-person sessions after he was released from house arrest. Mr. Dickson stated that Respondent's risk of recidivism was low and expressed the opinion that Respondent does not suffer from a psychological or personality disorder or any sexual deviance. He further opined that Respondent's criminal conduct was due, in part, to his sexual ...