Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Felony Conviction Leads to Portsmouth Attorney’s Two-Year Suspension

A Portsmouth attorney who was convicted of smashing the glass door of one of his rental properties and threatening the tenant with a shotgun has been suspended from the practice of law for two years by the Supreme Court of Ohio today.

Robert Hoover has been on an interim suspension from practicing law since October 2020, about two weeks after he pleaded guilty to burglary and aggravated menacing. In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court noted Hoover has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a severe manic episode contributed to his misconduct.

Based on his conviction, the Court found Hoover violated ethical rules governing Ohio lawyers by engaging in conduct that adversely reflected on his fitness to practice law.

Today’s decision gives Hoover credit for the time served under his October 2020 suspension, but requires him to satisfy several conditions before he will be permitted to resume the practice of law.

Lawyer Did Not Recognize Tenant
Hoover owned property in West Portsmouth known as Careys Run and operated seven rental units there. Hoover’s son was responsible for leasing the units. Hoover also had several garages on the property where he stored and repaired vehicles. In the summer of 2019, Jason Pelfrey met Hoover while Hoover was working on a car at Careys Run. Pelfrey told Hoover that he was renting an apartment from Hoover’s son.

In October 2019, Hoover believed someone had entered buildings on Careys Run without authorization, and he began to investigate. He grabbed a shotgun from one of the garages and shouted for those nearby to identify themselves. Hoover recognized everyone he encountered, except Pelfrey.

Pelfrey was outside his second-floor apartment, above a garage that Hoover used for storage. On the ground outside of Pelfrey’s apartment, with shotgun in hand, Hoover accused Pelfrey of breaking into buildings and not paying rent. Hoover told Pelfrey to leave the premises. Pelfrey locked himself in his apartment.

Hoover entered the garage underneath Pelfrey’s apartment and turned off the electricity. Pelfrey called the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, telling the office that Hoover had threatened to shoot him. Hoover put the shotgun back in the garage and grabbed a baseball bat, shattered the sliding glass door to Pelfrey’s apartment, and continued to demand Pelfrey leave. When the sheriff arrived, Hoover approached him with the baseball bat, but then complied with the sheriff’s order to drop the bat.

Hoover was arrested and taken to jail.

Angered Attorney Flees After Arrest
Portsmouth Municipal Court Judge Steven Mowery arraigned Hoover, who posted bond and was transported to a Columbus hospital for behavioral-health services. Hoover was indicted on two felonies and one misdemeanor for his encounter with Pelfrey.

On March 2, 2020, the day before a hearing on his case, Hoover posted a message on Facebook calling Judge Mowery a “crooked punk.” The next day Hoover failed to appear in court, and an arrest warrant was issued. He was found the following day in Daytona Beach, Florida, and was held in a mental-health lockdown facility in Florida until he was extradited to Ohio.

Hoover was declared incompetent to stand trial and was transferred to a behavioral healthcare center, where he refused to take medication until it was court ordered. Hoover later explained that he had refused to take medication because he did not believe he was ill.

Hoover remained hospitalized until he was declared competent in September 2020, at which time he pleaded guilty to two charges. He was sentenced to three years of intensive community control, and ordered to remain in counseling and to take his prescribed medication.

Supreme Court Adopted Proposed Sanction
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct in May 2021 based on Hoover’s conviction. The complaint stated the armed confrontation and the social media post about the judge adversely reflected on Hoover’s fitness to practice law.

In determining a proposed sanction, the board noted that Hoover had no prior disciplinary record and presented several letters from local officials and community members attesting to his good character and reputation. The board determined Hoover established he had a mental disorder and had achieved a sustained period of successful treatment. Hoover’s treating professionals stated that Hoover could return to the competent, ethical, professional practice of law.

The Court agreed with the board’s recommendation to suspend Hoover for two years with credit for time served under his October 2020 suspension. Hoover can seek reinstatement if he fully complies with all the terms of his court-imposed community control and submits an assessment from the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP) indicating that he has complied with all OLAP treatment recommendations. He must also enter a treatment contract for a duration selected by OLAP, and submit an opinion from his treating psychiatrist stating he is able to return the professional practice of law.

The Court also ordered Hoover to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2021-1517. Disciplinary Counsel v. Hoover, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-769.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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