It has happened to us all. You quickly type an email and some auto program completes the address for the wrong person or you hit “reply all” by mistake. Indeed, most attorneys have had such misfires in case, but few have had to deal with the embarrassment of Defense attorney Bob Hinton in the high-profile case. Hinton sent an Associated Press reporter an email intended for the legal team that admits that his client former Quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is still abusing drugs and could not pass a simple urinalysis as part of any plea bargain. Since they are trying to secure such a deal, the email is devastating for any chance that Manziel had for such a deal. To make matters worse, Manziel’s own father called him a “druggie” and said that he hoped that his son would be sent to jail to save his life.
Hinton mocks Manziel’s ability to stay clean and noted that he was given a receipt that shows Manziel may have spent more than $1,000 at a drug paraphernalia store just 15 hours after he was involved in a hit-and-run crash. Hinton wrote “Heaven help us if one of the conditions is to pee in a bottle.”
The email was sent after the AP sought a comment about the hit-and-run. Hinton was intending to communicate with another lawyer and then claimed that the contents were protected by attorney-client privilege and threatened to sue if certain details were published. It was an empty threat and AP published the email.
The case involves an allegation that Manziel hit and threatened his former girlfriend Colleen Crowley during a night out in January. The misdemeanor assault charge could bring a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. That is what makes this misfire so damaging. Even with this checkered history, Manziel had a strong case to avoid jail time. However, his continuing drug use — as affirmed by his own lawyers — could militate heavily with the court to order jail time and a substance abuse program. When combined with the statement of the father, it is hard for any lawyer to credibly tell the judge that Manziel is reformed and under control. In addition, there is an array of embarrassing stories of his drug-fueled parties.
The question is whether Hinton should now withdraw since his own words could be used against this client. More importantly, he would be hard pressed to argue the Manziel is rehabilitated or reformed at a critical sentencing hearing.
What do you think?