Lawyer and Narc: Ohio Attorney Goes Undercover to Help Police Trap His Client

thumb_election_scales1If Chevaliee ”Chevy” Robinson, 30, was unhappy about pleading guilty to drug conspiracy and money laundering in Akron a few months ago, he was probably even less happy when he learned the identity of the snitch that helped set him up with the police: his lawyer Frank Pignatelli. Media has learned that Pignatelli found himself implicated in the drug conspiracy and agreed to work undercover with police in stings to incriminate others, including his own former clients. It is an extremely troubling use of a lawyer by law enforcement that the American Bar Association should review.

Pignatelli may have resulted in the arrest of 30 people in Akron and Cleveland and other cities.

Pignatelli, 45, is no longer practicing in Ohio for good reason, but has taken up criminal defense work in Denver, incluidng the representation of defendants in drug cases. He has been offered a less sentence for his own actions to support drug dealers. Federal prosecutors reportedly approached Pignatelli to say that they believe he was helping his clients purchase ”stash houses” in which to store drugs and money. Media reports that a search of his home in March 2006 found more than $2.8 million and about 1,000 pounds of marijuana.

Presumably, the stash at Pignatelli’s house was not known to the Colorado bar when he started to represent people in drug cases.

Only recently we saw a lawyer in Wisconsin who assumed the role of both prosecutor and defense attorney for clients.

This is also a matter worthy of congressional review. The Justice Department in this case was using the trust afforded to an attorney to snare targets. It is a practice that would directly undermine the attorney-client relationship and the faith in the guarantee of zealous representation. In the meantime, the Ohio and Colorado bars need to get busy with Pignatelli and his ability to continue to represent people.

For the full story, click here.

11 thoughts on “Lawyer and Narc: Ohio Attorney Goes Undercover to Help Police Trap His Client”

  1. Bron,
    Your facts are not accurate. The Senate approved many more judges for Bush than they did during the Clinton days. Your memory lapse might be convenient. Remember, for the first six years the Republicans had a majority in both houses. Secondly, the good grades that you saw can be accurate. When you have that many good students, they can all be successful. Regent is a lower tier school I can guarantee you that no other lower tier law school had that many attorneys in such high positions. The sole reason why they were picked was for their politics and they were from an evangelical school, period.

  2. Federal prosecutors said they learned through another investigation that Pignatelli was helping his clients purchase ”stash houses” in which to store drugs and money.

    Based on the investigation, which included wire taps, agents searched Pignatelli’s home and recovered large sums of cash, authorities said. He was not indicted, but instead began cooperating with federal drug investigators.


  3. Rafflaw:

    I dont disagree with you on the attorney being disbarred for life, that was pretty bad. He should probably be in jail for what he has done.

    But please correct me if I am wrong a good many judges that are currently sitting were put in place by Clinton, Bush I and Reagan. Furthermore if I remember correctly Bush had a very hard time getting judges approved. So I honestly dont see how this can be a Bush justice system problem.

    I dont have a dog in the law school show as I am only an engineer but I have met many mighty fine engineers that did not go to MIT. Your argument against lawyers from Regent because they did not go to Harvard or Yale is interesting. I once went to Georgetown Law school with a friend, he had business there. While there I noticed the class grades, there were 2 B’s and a D the rest were A’s now granted Georgetown is a good school but I doubt out of a class of 50 or 60 they are all A students. My point is that while it may be hard to get into Harvard or Yale it may be mighty easy to stay.

  4. “Federal prosecutors reportedly approached Pignatelli to say that they believe he was helping his clients purchase ‘’stash houses” in which to store drugs and money. Media reports that a search of his home in March 2006 found more than $2.8 million and about 1,000 pounds of marijuana.”

    The article actually says that the cash and marijuana were seized at Chevaliee Robinson’s house, not Pignatelli’s house. Get it straight!

  5. Bron,
    I am sure Regent Law school is a good law school, but it isn’t Yale or Harvard. The problem isn’t that one or two Regent grads made it such a high level in the Administration, it was that it was far too many for one lower division school to have. They were inexperienced and not qualified to do the job they were doing.
    This attorney who turned on his own client should be disbarred for life. I agree with Mike that the evidence should have been thrown out. I am surprised that any court would convict someone on evidence obtained through the defendant’s attorney. Only in the Bush justice system could this happen!

  6. I went to the Regent University School of Law website and looked at faculty profiles they looked pretty good to me, Georgetown, Harvard, Duke, Emory, Chicago. Probably the kids coming out of there got a better legal education than the ones coming out of Princeton, Yale and Harvard. The Yale grads have really screwed this country up, seems like every time you turn around a Yale man or woman is stepping in kim chi.

  7. Did the Colorado Bar receive FULL DISCLOSURE as the extent of his criminal activities?

    One would think the COBar would at least require full disclosure to his prospective clients.

    From COBAR Rules on Professional Conduct:

    It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

    (a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;

    (b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;

    (c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;

    Ethics Opinoins
    Adopted July 24, 1982.


    A lawyer has an affirmative duty to surrender incriminating physical evidence in his possession. Upon surrender of the evidence, the lawyer must not reveal the identity of the client and confidential communications of the client. When a lawyer observes incriminating evidence as a result of his representation of the client and does not alter or disturb the evidence, he must not disclose these observations to authorities.

    Ethics and Discipline

    From CO Supreme Ct.

    When attorneys enter the practice of law, they take an oath to uphold the law and to follow the standards of ethics established by the Colorado Supreme Court. An attorney who violates the law and/or those standards is subject to discipline. In cases involving minor misconduct, an attorney may be admonished, censured, or placed in a diversion program. In serious matters, attorneys face suspension of their license to practice law or disbarment.

  8. mespo is absolutely correct. I would also argue that any evidence gathered through Mr. Pignatelli’s actions should be excluded. Is this another of the consequences of loading up the DOJ with Regent grads?

  9. Frank Pignatelli is no lawyer and should be disbarred. This undermines every notion of lawyer-client confidentiality and the lawyer’s fiduciary duty to his client even after the representation ends. The government is every bit as responsible as Pignatelli. I would refer it to the DOJ’s Inspector General.

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