Disciplinary Panel Considers Fate of Prosecutor Snared in Romance

CHARLESTON, W. Va. (CN) – A former federal prosecutor’s romantic relationship with a potential government witness in a series of drug cases was the subject of a disciplinary hearing  this week before a three-member panel of the West Virginia’s Supreme Court’s lawyer disciplinary board.

According to the statement of charges being considered by the court’s Lawyer Disciplinary Board, Erin Reisenweber’s 22-month relationship with a state trooper involved in several cases she handled did not compromised the outcome of those cases — they all ended in guilty pleas.

The issue, the statement says, is that she exercised “extremely poor judgment” by not revealing the relationship to the court in camera, so that a determination could be made as to whether a disclosure of the relationship to defense council was necessary.

The panel must now determine the attorney’s punishment for the alleged lapse.

As recounted in the statement of charges, Reisenweber relationship with the trooper came to light after a “large volume of romantic and sexually explicit texts” were discovered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Though unnamed in the statement and subsequent pleadings, the officer was identified during the hearing as a state trooper assigned to the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Crimes Task Force.

During the hearing, former acting U.S. Attorney Betsy Steinfield Jividen said the messages between Reisenweber, and the trooper were discovered in June 2012, during a routine review of  phones issued to members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office staff.

After first alerting U.S. District Judge Gina Groh, who presided in the drug cases, Jividen said she then referred the matter to the U.S Department of Justice office of professional responsibility for further investigation.

Jividen said  that when confronted about the affair, Reisenweber never attempted to deny it, and cooperated fully with the Justice Department investigation.

She said  Reisenweber also did not contest her transfer to the civil division.

The investigation then moved to the Justice Department’s professional misconduct review unit.

The unit recommended Reisenweber receive a three-day suspension,  citing her cooperation with the investigation, and that all the defendants in the drug cases entered into pleas deals prior to trial.

Jividen and other supervisors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office — Paul Camilletti, of the criminal division, and Helen Campbell Altmeyer, of the civil division, said the affair was out-of-character for Reisenweber.

They all spoke highly Reisenweber and Altmeyer described her as the best mediator in the civil division.

Reisenweber was the last to testify during the three-hour hearing.

She called her affair with the trooper “selfish,” and said she acknowledged the rules violations to take responsibility for her actions.

Chief Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel Rachael Fletcher Cipoletti asked Reisenweber what discipline she believed the Court should impose upon her.

After taking a few moments to reflect, she said either an admonishment or reprimand would be the “correct or appropriate sanction.”

Reisenweber’s case isn’t expected to be decided until early next year.

 

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