Sutter was cheating the state; Sanctioned by Bar Ethics Committee [Politics]

The man who would be our Congressman stole services from his own DA's office

Accepted free services from a law firm he was paid to fight in court

By Walter Brooks

Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter's present problem of jeopardizing the murder case against Jonathan Niemic is still simmering as new evidence is discovered of perhaps even worse ethical violations in this recent past.

"I take great pride in my 
  integrity and probity
."
            - C. Samuel Sutter
While he answered Friday's charges by saying, "If Bill Keating wants to make this campaign about my record as district attorney against his record as district attorney and if he wants to make it about my integrity against his integrity, I would be happy to do that," his wish may to be diminished as his past comes back to haunt him.

A dozen years ago while serving as Assistant District Attorney in the same Bristol County DA's office, Sutter admitted to violating a state conflict of interest law in a case in which a defendant was represented by a private firm with which the prosecutor was doing business.



Invite Sam to dinner, but count the silverware after.
Sutter admitted to the violation in a recently released legal settlement with the State Ethics Commission. The incident stemmed from his service as an Assistant DA before being elected to that office.

Then there's the money he and his wife improperly received as DA.

In 2009, the same year as the ethics violation above, Sutter's wife was forced to return $4,000 she was given as a present from a convicted embezzler.

Bottom line, Sam Sutter has several ethical blind spot and has trouble with telling the truth, telling the press this week, "I take great pride in my integrity and probity."

That word is defined as "adherence to the highest principles and ideals."

The complete text of his ethics violation sanction is below:

STATE ETHICS COMMISSION

Sutter, C. Samuel Docket No. 581

Docket No. 581

In the Matter of C. Samuel Sutter

Date: January 20, 1999 State Ethics Commission.

DISPOSITION AGREEMENT

This Disposition Agreement ("Agreement")is entered into between the State Ethics Commission ("Commission") and C. Samuel Sutter ("Sutter") pursuant to Section 5 of the Commission's Enforcement Procedures. This Agreement constitutes a consented to final order enforceable in the Superior Court, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, s.40).

On February 10, 1998, the Commission initiated, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, s.4(a), a preliminary inquiry into possible violations of the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by
Sutter. The Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on July 22, 1998, found reasonable cause to believe that Sutter violated G.L. c. 268A.

The Commission and Sutter now agree to the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

  1. 1. Sutter was, during the time relevant, a Bristol County assistant district attorney ("ADA").[1/] As such, Sutter was a state employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, s.1.
  2. Casey & Thompson P.C. is a law firm practicing inBristol County. John Casey ("Casey")and Bruce Thompson ("Thompson")are shareholders in the firm.[2/]
  3. In December 1994, Sutter solicited legal advice fromCasey concerning his recent separation from his wife.[3/] BetweenDecember 1994 and March 14, 1995, Sutter and Casey consulted onseveral occasions regarding this matter.
  4. On March 14, 1995, Sutter as an ADA represented the Commonwealth regarding a motion to dismiss in the district court asto which Thompson represented the defendant.[4/]
  5. As of March 14, 1995, Sutter was still consulting withCasey regarding the above-described personal matter, and he expected that the law firm of Casey & Thompson would represent himon that matter if it continued. [5/]
  6. Sutter did not disclose to his appointing authority, the District Attorney ("the DA"), his private relationship with thelaw firm of Casey & Thompson.
  7. General laws chapter 268A, s.23(b)(3) prohibits astate employee from acting in a manner which would cause areasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances,to conclude that any person can improperly influence him or undulyenjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties, or thathe is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank,position or undue influence of any party or person.
  8. By participating as an ADA in a matter in which thelaw firm of Casey & Thompson had an interest at a time when he had through his dealings with Casey a private relationship with Casey & Thompson in a personal matter, Sutter acted in a manner which would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances to conclude that the attorneys at Casey &Thompson could improperly influence Sutter or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of Sutter's official duties, thereby violating G.L. c. 268A, s.23(b)(3). [6/ 7/]
  9. By way of mitigation, Sutter notes that on March 14, 1995, he was filling in the district court, received several files scheduled for hearing or trial for that day for the first time on that morning, and had no prior knowledge that Thompson would be representing the defendant until shortly before the hearing began.
       According to Sutter, due to the time pressures of handling several cases that day on short notice and because he had been dealing only with Casey about his personal matter, it did not occur to him that his litigating a matter with Thompson would create an appearance problem.The Commission is not unmindful of the difficulties faced by an ADA in district court session and does find these circumstances to be somewhat mitigating. Nevertheless, it concludes that he had the opportunity and obligation to inform the judge that he had a conflict, obtain a continuance for the purpose of disclosing the conflict to the District Attorney, and have the District Attorney decide who should handle the matter.[8/]
  10. Sutter cooperated with the Commission's investigation.

In view of the foregoing violation of G.L. c. 268A by Sutter, the Commission has determined that the public interest would be served by the disposition of this matter without further
civil penalty. In disposing of this matter by this disposition agreement, Sutter waives all rights to contest the findings of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions contained in this Agreement in this or any other related administrative or judicial proceedings to which the Commission is or may be a party.

---------------------

[1/] From January 1994, to February 6, 1995, Sutter was the
Supervisory ADA at the Attleboro District Court. On February 6,
1995, Sutter was transferred to Superior Court. He continued to
appear in the Attleboro District Court to fill in for ADAs who were
ill or on vacation, but anew Supervisory ADA was appointed for the
Attleboro District Court.

[2/] The other major shareholder of the firm is not relevant
to these proceedings.

[3/] They had no prior attorney-client relationship.

[4/] The defendant was being prosecuted for operating under
the influence of alcohol. On February 28, 1995, Thompson filed a
motion to dismiss the case on various grounds. On March 14, 1995,
Sutter and Thompson engaged in an evidentiary hearing which
involved presenting witnesses and making oral arguments regarding
the motion. After the hearing, the judge took the matter under
advisement. While the matter was under advisement. Sutter took
steps so that the matter would be appealed in the event that the
judge allowed the motion. The judge did allow the motion to
dismiss, the Commonwealth did appeal, and the judge's decision was
eventually reversed by the Appeals Court and the case was remanded
back to the district court.

[5/] The law firm of Casey & Thompson did continue to
represent Sutter. Sutter has paid for a substantial portion of
these services and intends to pay the outstanding balance.

[6/] Section 23(b)(3) provides in relevant part: "It shall be
unreasonable to so conclude if such officer or employee has
disclosed in writing to his appointing authority or, if no
appointing authority exists, discloses in a manner which is public
in nature, the facts which would otherwise lead to such a
conclusion."

[7/] There is no evidence to indicate that Sutter provided
Casey & Thompson with any preferential treatment or that he
conducted himself other than in a professional manner regarding the
above described evidentiary hearing-

[8/] As a matter of public policy it is important that public
officials not engage in activity which creates the appearance that
their integrity has been undermined. In a recent decision and
order, In re Scaccia. 1996 SEC 838, the Commission stated its
position:

"Section 23(b)(3) is concerned with the appearance of a
conflict of interest as viewed by the reasonable person,
not whether the [public employee or official] actually
gave preferential treatment. The Legislature, in passing
this standard of conduct, focused on the perceptions of
the citizens of the community, not the perceptions of the
players in the situation." In re Hebert, 1996 SEC 800.
[I]n applying s.23(b)(3) to a public employee, [the
Commission] will evaluate whether, 'due to his private
relationship or interest, an appearance arises that the
integrity of the public official's action might be
undermined by the relationship or interest.' In re
Flanagan, 1996 SEC 757. See also In re Antonelli, 1982
SEC 10 1, 110 (evaluating precursor of s.23(b)(3),
Commission indicated major purpose of section to prohibit
public employee from engaging in conduct which will raise
questions over impartiality or credibility of his work).
Id. at 848.

This policy concern is especially applicable to our criminal
justice system where appearances of conflict of interest must be
avoided if our citizens' confidence in the integrity of the system
is to be maintained.

Page 927

End of Decision

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