(CN) - An attorney who posed as the mistress of a murderer on Facebook to turn his girlfriend against him is suspended from practicing law in Ohio for a year, the state's high court ruled.
After Kenneth "Blue" Adams, 36, was shot dead at his workplace, the Red Zone Car Wash in Cleveland, in May 2012, Aaron Brockler was assigned as the assistant prosecutor.
During the investigation, the Cuyahoga County attorney doubted the testimony of Damon Dunn, who had denied any involvement in the shooting death, telling police that he was with his girlfriend Sarah Mossor and her friend Marquita Lewis at the time Adams was killed.
Brockler then came across a recording of one of Dunn's jailhouse phone calls, wherein Mossor threatened to dump him, believing he cheated on her with a woman named "Taisha," according to court records.
Since Mossor and Lewis had repeatedly refused to talk with Brockler, he immediately created a fake Facebook account to contact them.
Using the pseudonym "Taisha Little" and a photo of a black woman he found on the Internet, the attorney joined groups and added photos and "friends," based on Dunn's profile.
Brockler then contacted Mossor and Lewis in separate Facebook chats, claiming that Little had an 18-month-old child with Dunn and needed him to be released to pay child support.
The lawyer's goal was to convince Mossor and Lewis to admit that they were lying for Dunn, according to Thursday's Ohio Supreme Court ruling.
Several hours in, Mossor and Lewis seemed suspicious, so Brockler deleted his account.
Brockler testified that he printed the chats for defense counsel, but the copies were never found and he never mentioned the Facebook fiasco throughout five pretrial conferences in 2013.
When Brockler went on extended medical leave in April 2013, he told his sub, assistant prosecutor Kevin Filiatraut, that he might need to testify at trial, as both Mossor and Lewis said they were afraid to speak against Dunn's alibi in court - without explaining how he knew that.
On the second day of Brockler's leave, less than a week before trial, a police detective gave Filiatraut a copy of "Little's" Facebook chat with Lewis, which she provided.
Three weeks later, Brockler admitted that he had posed as Little, and was fired in June.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer then broadcast an interview with Brockler, wherein he said he used a ruse, as prosecutors do, to catch a murderer, as he promised Adams' mother he would.
About a year later, Dunn was convicted of murder and related crimes.
The Ohio Disciplinary Counsel Office charged Brockler with professional misconduct on April 7, 2014, and the Board of Professional Conduct found that Brockler's Facebook scheme was deceitful, but recommended that alleged violations related to his interview be dismissed.
Finding no other violations over Brockler's decade-long career, the board recommended that he be suspended for one year, fully stayed on conditions.
A divided Ohio Supreme Court adopted the board's findings Thursday, holding that they are "supported by the record and the law."
The board "acknowledged that the loss of his 'dream job' was a form of penalty,"
the majority slip opinion states. "Although Brockler's use of deception violated core ethical values, the board also found he was not motivated by self-interest, because he honestly - albeit erroneously - believed that his covert use of Facebook was an effective and acceptable tactic akin to more traditional investigative tactics such as staged drug buys and the use of undercover informants."
But Chief Judge Maureen O'Connor, dissented, joined by Judge Judith Lanzinger, writing that "the majority minimizes [Brockler's] significant ethical violations."
"I am cognizant of Brockler's desire to serve the public and to do what is 'right' by protecting society from dangerous criminal defendants, just as I am aware of the intensely difficult nature of such work, which often involves tragic circumstances, elicits visceral reactions, and presents great risks for both the accuser and the accused," O'Connor wrote. "Although criminal cases 'bring the responsibility and necessity' of zealous representation, a prosecuting attorney 'is not endowed with a concomitant right to denigrate the court in discharging that responsibility.'"
Judge Terrence O'Donnell also dissented from the majority opinion, saying he too would support an indefinite suspension.
The parties did not respond to requests for comment emailed Friday.
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