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Court: 1-year suspension for Ohio St. case lawyer

Court: 1-year suspension for Ohio St. case lawyer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday suspended for one year the law license of an attorney whose emails to Jim Tressel triggered an ongoing scandal and NCAA investigation that cost the football coach his job at Ohio State University.

At issue was whether Columbus attorney Christopher Cicero violated professional rules of conduct that prohibit revealing information from meetings with a client or a prospective client.

The 5-2 court decision followed the recommendation of a disciplinary board that argued Cicero wrongly discussed interviews with tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife, a potential client. However, the court overruled the board's recommendation for a six-month suspension.

Cicero sent emails to Tressel in April 2010, warning him that players were selling memorabilia or trading them for tattoos. The email traffic sparked the scandal and ended Tressel's Ohio State tenure.

An NCAA investigation also led to a bowl ban this year, reductions in scholarships and the loss of Ohio State's $389,000 share of the Big Ten bowl pot a year ago. The entire 2010 season also was vacated.

Ohio State just completed a 12-0 season and is ranked No. 4 in the AP poll.

Justice Judith Lanzinger said the case went to the heart of the importance of confidentiality between a prospective client and an attorney.

``Prospective clients trust that their confidences will be protected when they engage in an initial consultation with an attorney,'' Lanzinger wrote. ``Cicero's almost immediate dissemination of the detailed information that Rife provided on April 15 directly violated that trust.''

Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Terrence O'Donnell dissented, saying they would have imposed a six-month suspension.

``Cicero's intentions were not for personal aggrandizement or personal gain, as found by the majority, but were to alert the coach about misconduct by his players that could affect the team,'' Stratton wrote.

``His request that such information be held confidential does not support the notion that he was trying to seek fame,'' she said.

Cicero's lawyer said he was disappointed with the decision, saying he and his client had considered even a six-month suspension ``a little harsh.''

``We ended up losing for a year a really, really great lawyer who practices in a difficult area - felony criminal law,'' said attorney John Gonzales.

He didn't know Cicero's plans for the year, adding they hadn't expected the decision so soon.

Cicero met with Rife on April 2, 2010, according to court documents, and again 13 days later to discuss whether Cicero would represent him in a federal drug trafficking case, according to a complaint against him by the Disciplinary Counsel of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Cicero, an Ohio State football player in the early 1980s, denied meeting with Rife on April 2. He said the two did meet on April 15, 2010, with the goal of confirming that Rife's partner, a former client of Cicero, wasn't involved with drug dealing or memorabilia sales.

Rife's house had been raided April 1 by federal drug investigators and Cicero wanted to know if Joseph Epling, his client and Rife's business partner, was involved in the case.

``Eddie Rife was never going to be my client in this case at all,'' Cicero told a three-member disciplinary panel at the Ohio Supreme Court last year. ``I saw him as an ally and resource for Mr. Epling. That's how I viewed Mr. Rife's purpose in my office.''

Rife pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering last year and was sentenced to three years in prison.

It was emails Cicero sent to Tressel in April 2010, warning him that players were selling memorabilia or trading them for tattoos, that helped launch the scandal.

In those emails, Cicero seemed to make it clear that he may have taken on Rife as a client.

``If he retains me, and he may, I will try to get these items back,'' Cicero wrote in an April 16, 2010, email.

``I have to sit tight and wait to see if he retains me, but at least he came in last night to do a face to face with me,'' Cicero wrote later that day.

Cicero and his attorneys argued the emails sent to Tressel were only meant to warn the coach about his players' actions and shouldn't be read as a breach of confidentiality, since -they argued - Rife was not a client.

Ohio's legal conduct rules generally prohibit attorneys from divulging any information they received from someone who might be a prospective client.

News of the memorabilia sales emerged in December 2010. In March 2011, the university discovered that Tressel had known about the sales since the previous April and said nothing. That was a violation of both NCAA rules and Tressel's contract, which required the prompt reporting of any knowledge of such player infractions. Tressel resigned under pressure in May 2011.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached athttp://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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Wizards Trade Timeline: Sorting through details of scrapped Trevor Ariza trade

Wizards Trade Timeline: Sorting through details of scrapped Trevor Ariza trade

The Washington Wizards’ attempt at upgrading their defense by acquiring veteran forward Trevor Ariza in exchange for key reserves Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers fell through. Various reports on how the three-team trade with the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies fell apart includes contradicting details.

The subsequent noise and chaos created confusion over what transpired. As of Friday night all we knew for sure was the no trade was ever reported to the league for approval. Here’s what NBC Sports Washington has learned as of early Saturday morning from league sources.

Quick recap: The Wizards were in talks to add Ariza, who played two seasons with Washington (2012-2014), along with a pair of second-round picks coming from Memphis. Oubre would land with the Grizzlies while the Suns would receive Rivers, Memphis guard Wayne Selden and player with the last name Brooks.

Trade news popped moments after the Wizards’ 125-118 loss at Brooklyn. Washington fell to 11-18 after a fourth consecutive loss. Another lost moment soon followed.

Everything blew up because the Suns believed they were acquiring Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks, a second-year player, while the Grizzlies claim the trade involved journeyman MarShon Brooks. Deals are torpedoed at the last minute from time to time. That happened here except reports leaked publicly with the details, including the Brooks confusion, all of which led to a wild night on social media.

- The Wizards entered into discussions about Ariza over the last 2-3 days. By that point, the Suns and Grizzlies were deep into conversations about a potential move with Memphis concerning Dillon Brooks. The two sides talked at least a half-dozen times over 7-10 days including at least one directl chat with owners of both teams.

With Dillon Brooks currently sidelined by a knee injury, the Suns requested the guard’s physical from the Grizzlies. Enough information and dialogue were exchanged during the process between all three teams that there was clear understanding of the players involved, at least for the Suns and Wizards. It’s possible what all witnessed was a bad case of nerves by the Grizzlies at the buzzer.

Other reports offer similar details, but Memphis general manager Chris Wallace countered the notion of Dillon Brooks’ involvement from the start, according to ESPN.

- As for what comes next, its conceivable talks are revived. Wojnarowksi reported Saturday morning that the Wizards and Suns "were exploring whether a deal could be made between the two teams that included Ariza, Oubre and Rivers" with the Grizzlies perhaps still involved.

Players signed as free agents during the offseason, including Ariza, could not be traded until Saturday regardless. Ariza signed a one-year, $15 million contract with Phoenix in July.

- That the deal fell through opens the door for other teams interested in Ariza. The Los Angeles Lakers were thought to be among the teams in the mix before Phoenix agreed to the three-way trade. Even if Washington hopes to find a new path, other teams now know the price and could counter with their own offers. 

Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers and Rockets were among the teams now “pushing the Suns” for a trade involving Ariza, who reportedly desires a trade to his native Los Angeles.

- Washington’s interest in Ariza comes on multiple fronts. The 6-foot-8 forward, who would start alongside Otto Porter, is one of the better 3-and-D players in the league, though his shooting numbers were off with the Suns this season. In 26 games this season, Ariza shot a solid 36 percent on 3-pointers, but only 37.0 percent overall while averaging 9.9 points and 5.6 rebounds.

Don't panic over Ariza’s shooting numbers for now.  The 5-25 Suns are perhaps the lone team in the league without a true point guard. In Washington Ariza would once again play with Wall, a five-time All-Star and one of the league's top passers. Factor in the presence of Bradley Beal and Porter and Ariza would find himself open on the perimeter often.  

The Wizards rank 29th in points allowed this season with 117.2 points per game. Ariza, 33, proved formidable on the perimeter during the last four seasons with the Rockets. Houston, a Western Conference finalist in 2018 with Ariza, has fallen to 13-14 this season in part because of their defensive shortcomings.

- Washington would reduce its luxury tax payment for the second time in the last week. Salaries for Rivers, another expiring contract, and Oubre combined for approximately $860,000 less than Ariza’s $15 million deal. That works out to around $2.1 million savings. Washington previously saved around $4.7 million by trading Jason Smith. The Wizards would have remained $5 million over the luxury tax in this failed scenario.

The trade would not shed major long-term salary, however. The Wizards are currently over the projected 2019-20 salary cap with only five players under contract. The Ariza deal would help the team keep playoff hopes alive this season and save some money in the process.

- Lastly,  the Wizards are expected to practice Saturday. We’ll see what happens.

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Another Ovechkin hat trick, another Capitals win

Another Ovechkin hat trick, another Capitals win

This is getting a little silly. 

Alex Ovechkin, at age 33, matched the longest point-scoring streak of his career and recorded his second hat trick in a row. What else is there to say? 

The Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 in a shootout in Raleigh on Friday night. They rallied from 4-1 down to beat a Metropolitan Division rival and have now won 12 of their past 15 games. They’re rolling. 

But all you can talk about after these games is Ovechkin, who now has 28 goals in 31 games to lead the NHL. He’ll cool off eventually. But there’s no sign of that happening any time soon. Ovechkin has a five-goal lead over Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine. He is seventh overall in points with 42. 

Ovechkin is the 18th different player since 1943-44 to score at least 28 goals in his team's first 31 games, and third to do so since 1993-94. The others: Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96 (28 goals) and 1996-97 (30 goals) and Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 (29 goals). 

Only 14 players have recorded consecutive hat tricks multiple times. Ovechkin is now one of them. He leads all active players with 22 hat tricks and just tied Teemu Selanne for 11th all time. 

Ovechkin would tie Bengt Gustafsson for fifth-longest point streak in team history if he has a point in Saturday’s game against Buffalo. The numbers almost become numbing.

He’s leading the way for a team five points clear of second-place Columbus in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps are also seven ahead of third-place Pittsburgh. But Ovechkin isn’t the only reason. 

On a night where Braden Holtby struggled, including the gaffe behind the net trying a clear that led to Carolina tying the game at 13:48 of the third period in a 5-4 game, others produced. Tom Wilson scored again. His goal at 12:37 of the second period started the comeback from 4-1 down.

Give the fourth line credit. The trio of Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd and Dmitrij Jaskin is a factor almost every night. They played their fourth game together in a row and Boyd tipped home the goal that cut the deficit to 4-3. In this stretch Dowd has five assists, including three against the Hurricanes. Boyd has five points (three goals, two assists) and Jaskin is the physical moral compass of the line. He has a goal and an assist. Overall, Dowd has 10 points in his past 10 games (three goals, seven assists).

John Carlson also had three assists, including the primary on Boyd’s goal and then Ovechkin’s power-play goal at 9:49 of the third period. He’s up to 35 points (five goals, 30 assists) and well on his way to passing last year’s career-best 68. He is again quietly tied with Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot for most points by a defenseman this season.   

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