“Heaven Help Us”: Manziel Attorneys Mistakenly Send Reporters Emails Implicating The Former Quarterback In Continued Drug Use

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?

10 thoughts on ““Heaven Help Us”: Manziel Attorneys Mistakenly Send Reporters Emails Implicating The Former Quarterback In Continued Drug Use”

  1. I have no idea what the relationship is between Johnny and Hinton was.
    Maybe Johnny’s counsel just flat out decided that this spoiled yahoo is a never gone learn and sent the text out intentionally.
    Dad can’t be too proud either.
    I say it was intentional.No way to prove it either, so Hinton has a pass. NPI.

  2. I may be wrong here, but the communication seems to be the attorney’s work product, and it reflects the client’s confidences and secrets, so it’s also protected under the attorney-client privileged, It may also be inadmissable hearsay. It should be suppressed in a criminal trial setting.

    As an ethical issue, at least in this state, I don’t think the prosecution can use it because the communication was obviously not intended to be published. The prosecutor must notify counsel of the receipt of the document and destroy the evidence. There’s a potential price to be paid for trying to use it at trial without notifying counsel first and allowing a challenge, in an analogous context to In re Joel B. Eisenstein, posted on this blog not long ago: http://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=99378

  3. Regardless of the lawyer’s mistake, Manziel should immediately clean up and show he is on the way to reform. He might be able to spin this as a wake-up call if he does.

  4. “Not a topic for a law blog.

    It’s about a lawyer’s terrible mistake.
    How is that not a topic for a law blog?

    Defense attorney Bob Hinton will likely be looking for some other line of work soon.

  5. Many people on Earth care not a rat’s arse for football or baseball or soccer or basketball players. Not a topic for a law blog.

  6. Maybe they should try a diversity defense??? That Johnny Football smacked his old lady around because . . . diversity! I mean, the term is already a unicorn synonym, so why try to make it rational? Just claim . . .diversity!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  7. Usually these emails have a line at the bottom telling the recipient that if they got it accidentally they are to disregard it and destroy it. Clearly that was not done.

  8. My view is that from an ethical perspective, the prosecutor should offer the same deal he/she proposed to the defense prior to the leak of this email, with a stipulation that if the defendant later fails to comply with his probation, in light of this new information, a more punishing sanction will occur than what was considered originally.

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