Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Lawyer Suspended for Tossing Feces-Filled Pringles Can

The Supreme Court of Ohio today suspended a Noble County criminal defense attorney for one year, with six months stayed, for throwing a Pringles potato chip can filled with his feces into the parking lot of the county’s crime-victim advocacy center.

In a divided per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court found Jack A. Blakeslee engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law. Blakeslee claimed he was not targeting anyone with his antics but had a habit of placing his waste in Pringles cans and randomly throwing them from his car as he traveled down the road.

The Court found that there was clear and convincing evidence that “he chose the Haven of Hope parking lot as his drop zone” to get a thrill from pranking victim advocates whom he admittedly had known for years and whom he would most likely be seeing in court 15 minutes later.

The Board of Professional Conduct recommended that the Court publicly reprimand Blakeslee. The opinion noted the primary purpose of attorney discipline is not to punish the offender but to protect the public. The Court found a greater sanction was needed to protect the public.

“However, the evidence in this case shows that despite societal standards of cleanliness and decorum, Blakeslee failed to control his own bizarre impulses to place feces-filled cans out in public for unsuspecting people to find. His aberrant conduct has adversely reflected on his own fitness to practice law and brought discredit to the profession through significant media attention,” the Court stated.

Chief Justice Sharon L. Kennedy and Justices Michael P. Donnelly, Melody Stewart, and Joseph T. Deters joined the opinion. Justice R. Patrick DeWine concurred in judgment only.

Justice Patrick F. Fischer joined the opinion, but stated he would vote to impose a two-year suspension, all stayed, and place Blakeslee on two years of probation. Justice Jennifer Brunner did not participate in the case.

Video Catches Waste-Filled Can Toss
Blakeslee has been a criminal defense attorney for more than 40 years and has no prior record of attorney discipline. He testified that he is a Vietnam veteran and received psychological treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to his military service and as a victim of child abuse.

In June 2021, Blakelee was appointed by the Guernsey County Common Pleas Court to represent Alexander Wells. Wells was indicted for various offenses, including aggravated murder of a victim under age 13, which made Wells subject to the death penalty.

Michelle Carpenter Wilkinson is the chief executive officer of Haven of Hope, a victim advocacy center. She had known Blakeslee for years, and the two were friends on Facebook. Carpenter Wilkinson attended Wells’ arraignment and several additional court proceedings in Wells’ case between June and September 2021.

In November 2021, a pretrial hearing was scheduled for Wells at 8:30 a.m. Before leaving his home in Coal Ridge, about 20 minutes from Cambridge, Blakeslee deposited his feces into an empty Pringles can. He then drove to downtown Cambridge.

Between 8:10 and 8:15 a.m., Blakeslee turned his vehicle down an alley near the courthouse where the Haven of Hope parking lot is located. A sign on the building at the alley’s entrance read “Haven of Hope Administrative Offices” and had an arrow pointing down the alley.

Surveillance video showed Blakeslee slowing his vehicle as he passed the Haven of Hope parking lot and continued further down the alley. He then passed several parking lots before turning around and slowly passing the Haven of Hope lot a second time. The video shows him throwing the Pringles can into the lot and driving to the courthouse for the 8:30 a.m. pretrial hearing.

Victim Spots Lawyer’s Toss
Carpenter Wilkinson saw Blakeslee throw the can out of his car and discovered the can with his waste. She then left for the courthouse to attend the pretrial hearing for Wells. Later that day, she discussed the matter with the prosecutor assigned to the Wells case and filed a report with the Cambridge Police Department.

Blakeslee pleaded guilty to minor misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and littering. He paid $248 in fines and court costs. In November 2022, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct based on the incident.

Lawyer Argues Act Was Random Prank
At his disciplinary hearing, Blakeslee denied targeting Carpenter Wilkinson or the Haven of Hope staff with his actions. He admitted throwing Pringles cans filled with his waste from his vehicle on at least 10 occasions, in a variety of locations.

Blakeslee described his actions as pranks, admitted it was “stupid,” and that he was embarrassed by the public revelation of his conduct and media attention. Blakeslee claimed he had no intention of throwing “that thing in Cambridge” and did not pick a spot but just happened to be on the way down the alley. He said he routinely disposed of the cans while “on the way to work.”

Blakeslee explained that he threw the cans to “blow off steam” and that he got a kick out of imagining the “look of surprise” on the faces of those who found the Pringles cans. Blakeslee did not attempt to establish that he had a mental disorder to mitigate any sanction he might face and denied his acts were related to his PTSD. He agreed his behavior was not normal and stated, “There has to be something going on that’s related to some of the things I went through in early life.”

The disciplinary counsel argued that Blakeslee targeted the Haven of Hope. The video supported the claim, showing Blakeslee passing the lot, circling back to toss the can, and then quickly pulling away.  The disciplinary counsel recommended that Blakeslee receive a six-month, fully stayed suspension with the condition that he commit no further misconduct.

Court Adopted Harsher Sanction
The Court’s opinion stated that there are few comparable cases of other lawyers sanctioned for similar behavior to use as a basis for selecting the appropriate discipline for Blakeslee.

The opinion noted that Blakeslee knew Carpenter Wilkinson for nearly 20 years and had represented her daughter in a legal matter. He also knew she was regularly attending the Wells proceedings as a victims advocate and that he most certainly expected to see her or a staff member at the hearing shortly after he tossed the can.

The Court used two cases of attorneys engaged in acts of indecent exposure to determine a sanction for Blakeslee. In the cases of the other two lawyers, the targets of their actions were unknown strangers in incidents unrelated to their legal work. In this case, the Court noted that Blakeslee targeted people involved in his professional life.

The Court found that Blakeslee’s can throw was not an act of hostility or an attempt to intimidate the victim advocates. However, the Court wrote that while his past waste flings were intended to invoke surprise by persons unknown to him who would find the cans, this incident demonstrated “he escalated a preexisting pattern of conduct to seek an even greater thrill by pulling a prank on someone he knew.”

The Court found a sanction greater than a public reprimand or fully stayed suspension was necessary. The Court stayed the final six months of Blakeslee’s one-year suspension with the condition that he commit no further misconduct. Blakeslee was also ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2023-0741. Disciplinary Counsel v. Blakeslee, Slip Opinion No. 2023-Ohio-4202.

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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