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Author Topic: Judge Declares Lawyer Drunk in Court  (Read 8918 times)
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Bearlyhere
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« on: August 09, 2006, 12:13:16 PM »

Judge Declares Lawyer Drunk in Court
By Associated Press

Tue Aug 8, 8:26 PM

LAS VEGAS - A judge ordered a blood-alcohol test for a defense lawyer who was slurring his words, then declared a mistrial after declaring him too tipsy to argue a kidnapping case.

"I don't think you can tell a straight story because you are intoxicated," the judge told Joseph Caramango as she declared a mistrial for his client.

Caramango, 41, acknowledged in court that he was drinking the previous night, but maintained he was not drunk. If convicted, his client faces life in prison.

"I don't believe I've committed any ethical violation," Caramango said Tuesday, disputing the accuracy of the breath-alcohol test. "If it proved anything, it proved I was not intoxicated."

Clark County District Judge Michelle Leavitt announced Caramango had a blood-alcohol level of 0.075 percent. Nevada's legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers is 0.08 percent.

In an exchange recorded by courtroom video, Caramango arrived about 90 minutes late for trial and was slurring his words.

The judge asked if anything was wrong, and Caramango said he suffered a head injury in a rear-end car crash while driving to court.

Leavitt said she was suspicious because details of Caramango's account varied.

Caramango also identified a woman who accompanied him to court as his ex-girlfriend, Christine, but when questioned by the judge the woman identified herself as Josephine. She said they just met about 20 minutes earlier at a bar and coffee shop.

Leavitt did not hold Caramango in contempt of court, and it was not immediately clear if he would face discipline by the State Bar.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Tylergal
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« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2006, 06:50:12 AM »

You know if this was such a bad reflection on our society, it would be funny.  Thank you for posting this, Bearly.
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Bearlyhere
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2006, 08:07:39 AM »

Quote from: "Tylergal"
You know if this was such a bad reflection on our society, it would be funny.  Thank you for posting this, Bearly.


Unbelievable, isn't it?  

There are so many factors determining whether a person is pronounced guilty or not guilty.  Who would think that a drunk lawyer was something to worry about?  It just adds one more glitch in turning a justice system into an injustice system.
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2009, 04:53:38 PM »

http://**/lvrj_home/2006/Aug-08-Tue-2006/news/8944900.html
Aug. 08, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

KIDNAPPING CASE: Alcohol test on lawyer stirs mistrial

Breathalyzer used in court

By GLENN PUIT
REVIEW-JOURNAL

Joseph Caramagno


Michelle Leavitt

After a lawyer due to defend a man against a kidnapping charge showed up to court late and smelling of booze last week, a Clark County District Court judge ordered the attorney to take a Breathalyzer test in open court, then declared a mistrial when the test confirmed her suspicions.

In a remarkable exchange captured by the courtroom's video camera, District Judge Michelle Leavitt ordered defense attorney Joseph Caramagno to submit to the test after she smelled alcohol on his breath.
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The result indicated that Caramagno's blood-alcohol level was 0.075. In Nevada, it is illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.

After seeing the test results, Leavitt declared a mistrial in the kidnapping trial of Caramagno's client, Dale Jakuchunas.

"Mr. Jakuchunas is facing a life sentence, so if you came to court intoxicated, you've got a problem," Leavitt told Caramagno.

"I don't think you can tell a straight story because you are intoxicated," Leavitt said.

Caramagno, in an interview Monday, denied being drunk. He said he was in a car accident on the way to court and suffered a concussion, causing him to appear intoxicated when he was not. He said police were not called to the fender bender, so there was no record of it.

"I wasn't drunk," he said. "I was ready to go forward."

"I've always considered myself the consummate professional," he said. "I take all my cases very personally."

Caramagno is well known in Las Vegas legal circles because he was one of the lawyers who helped secure the acquittal of Rick Tabish on a murder charge two years ago. Tabish and his lover, Sandy Murphy, were acquitted of charges of killing Las Vegas gaming mogul Ted Binion. They were convicted, however, of charges stemming from the theft of Binion's silver.

On Thursday, Caramagno was scheduled to appear in Leavitt's courtroom for the first day of witness testimony in the trial of Jakuchunas.

Caramagno arrived about 90 minutes late in the company of a young woman wearing a black halter top and tight pants.

On the video recording, Caramagno can be heard slurring his words, and Leavitt asks him what is wrong with him.

"I'm going to tell you, to be honest with you, you don't look right," Leavitt said.

He told the judge that his car had been rear-ended by another car on Sahara Avenue, causing him a head injury.

But Leavitt said she became suspicious when details of Caramagno's accident account varied. Leavitt summoned him and prosecutors into her chambers. During this meeting, the judge said, Caramagno told her the woman who accompanied him into court was his ex-girlfriend.

But when Leavitt questioned the woman, she said she had met Caramagno about 20 minutes earlier at the nearby Courthouse Café and had never dated Caramagno.

Caramagno also referred to the woman as Christine. The woman later identified herself in court as Josephine.

"You told me she was your ex-girlfriend," Leavitt said. "Now I'm very upset with you."

"I apologize, your honor," Caramagno said. "She's a friend of a friend. I was nervous about coming to court late."

"I don't want to make this a soap opera, and I apologize," Caramagno said.

"Well, you have," Leavitt told him. "I've never seen anything like this in my entire life. You've turned this into a soap opera."

Leavitt ordered him to be examined by a nurse at the courthouse, and the nurse told the judge that Caramagno said he had shots of tequila hours before court. He subsequently acknowledged in court that he was drinking the night before, but he continued to maintain that he was not drunk.

After another recess, Leavitt ordered Caramagno to take a breath test. He at first resisted. "Judge, I don't want to submit to it," he said.

"I don't think you really have a choice," Leavitt said. "If you come to court and you give me reason to believe you are intoxicated, you've got to submit."

Caramagno is seen on the courtroom videotape sitting down and blowing air into the Breathalyzer. After the test results were announced, Leavitt declared a mistrial. "For the record, your blood-alcohol content is .075," Leavitt said.

Leavitt did not order Caramagno into custody on a contempt of court finding. It was not clear Monday evening whether Caramagno could face disciplinary proceedings from the State Bar of Nevada.

This is not the first time Caramagno's actions have drawn the ire of a Clark County District Court judge. Shortly before Tabish's sentencing hearing in 2005, a letter Caramagno penned in the case surfaced, and in the letter, Caramagno belittled District Judge Joseph Bonaventure.

The letter prompted Bonaventure to openly scold Caramagno in court.

"This is why the public hates lawyers, why lawyers have a bad rap," Bonaventure said at the time.
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2009, 04:54:46 PM »

http://**/lvrj_home/2006/Sep-08-Fri-2006/news/9532316.html
Sep. 08, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Las Vegas attorney enters alcohol, drug rehab facility

By GLENN PUIT
REVIEW-JOURNAL

A Las Vegas lawyer accused of showing up to court drunk in August has entered an in-patient alcohol and drug treatment facility in California, according to the State Bar of Nevada.

Defense attorney Joseph Caramagno, 41, originally denied being under the influence of alcohol during a court appearance in front of District Judge Michelle Leavitt.
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But on Thursday, the State Bar issued a news release saying Caramagno had entered a rehabilitation facility.

In addition, court records show Caramagno's sister and father have told the State Bar that he has a drug and alcohol problem.

"On Aug. 11, the Office of Bar Counsel received an e-mail from Mr. Caramagno's sister, Denise Caramagno, wherein she informed the State Bar of Nevada that, in contemplating any treatment program for her brother, to note that Mr. Caramagno also has a substance abuse problem in addition to his alcohol abuse issue," Glenn Machado, an attorney for the State Bar, wrote in court filings.

Joseph Caramagno showed up to court nearly two hours late and was slurring his words during the kidnapping trial of his client, Dale Jakuchunas, in Leavitt's courtroom.

Caramagno denied he was under the influence, saying "I'm as sober as a judge."

But Leavitt ordered Caramagno to undergo a breathalyzer test in open court. His blood-alcohol level was 0.075 percent.

In Nevada, it is illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.

Leavitt subsequently declared a mistrial in the case.
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2009, 04:57:17 PM »

http://**/lvrj_home/2006/Nov-19-Sun-2006/news/10910327.html
Nov. 19, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Attorney who came to court drunk now sober, committed to rebuilding career


By GLENN PUIT
REVIEW-JOURNAL

Las Vegas attorney Joseph Caramagno talks about his life following three months in rehab. Caramagno was one of the attorneys who helped secure an acquittal for Rick Tabish in the Ted Binion murder case, but his career went into a slide after he showed up intoxicated to court in August.
Photo by John Gurzinski.

A lawyer who showed up to court drunk has been sober for 90 days now, and he said last week he's committed to rebuilding his shattered legal career in Las Vegas.

"Cocaine was my main problem," Joseph Caramagno said. "It got to a point where I was abusing it on an almost daily basis, and it was hard for me to function without it. There were many nights, especially on the weekends, when I was involved in that type of activity."
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Caramagno said he is still in the early stages of sobriety, but he nonetheless plans to resume his career in Las Vegas despite his nationally publicized implosion in District Court in August.

"There is really no choice," Caramagno said. "The options are go back to alcohol and drugs, put a bullet in your head, or go forward with your life, and the other two are not options to me. I have to go forward, and I have to get back slowly what I gave away. I'm not going to run away from this."

As of 2005, Caramagno certainly had a lot going for him. The former prosecutor from New York was on the team of lawyers that earned Rick Tabish a murder acquittal in the high-profile Ted Binion murder case. He was widely recognized in the proceedings for his aggressiveness, and he was also the subject of a high-profile rebuke from District Judge Joseph Bonaventure in the case for his "win-at-all-costs" strategy.

Meanwhile, his law practice was also starting to take off, earning him a nice house on an exclusive golf course property in northwest Las Vegas and a luxury sports car in his driveway.

But Caramagno said he also was immersed in the city's party scene, and he liked it. He spent much of his nights gambling at casinos and partying with strippers.

"I guess I was, for a lack of a better term, intrigued by that lifestyle," Caramagno said. "It sucked me in."

In August, one of Caramagno's clients, Dale Jakuchunas, went to trial on a kidnapping charge that feasibly could have landed him in prison for life. On the second day of the proceedings, Caramagno showed up to the courtroom of District Judge Michelle Leavitt more than 90 minutes late, and with a young woman wearing a black halter top and tight pants in tow.

A video recording of the proceedings showed Caramagno slurring his words, and Leavitt asked Caramagno what was wrong with him.

"Mr. Jakuchunas is facing a life sentence, so if you came to court intoxicated, you've got a problem," Leavitt told Caramagno.

Caramagno told the judge that his car had been rear-ended by another car on Sahara Avenue, causing him to suffer a head injury. But Leavitt said she became suspicious when details of Caramagno's accident account varied. Leavitt summoned him and prosecutors into her chambers. During this meeting, the judge said, Caramagno told her the woman who accompanied him into court was his ex-girlfriend.

When Leavitt questioned the woman, she said she had met Caramagno about 20 minutes earlier at the nearby Courthouse Café and had never dated Caramagno.

Leavitt ordered Caramagno to take a Breathalyzer test in open court, and his blood alcohol level came back at 0.075 percent. The legal limit in Nevada is 0.08.

Caramagno originally denied being drunk, but his father and sister called the State Bar of Nevada to say he did have a problem. Caramagno later acknowledged as much and he entered into an agreement with the State Bar of Nevada to go into rehabilitation. He was placed on disability and entered a 30-day in-patient rehabilitation program. He later spent 60 days at the home of a friend he met in rehab.

A column on the matter penned by State Bar President Rew Goodenow said the Bar took the matter seriously. Veteran defense attorney Bill Terry was assigned to handle Caramagno's criminal cases, and Attorney Maria Milano took some of Caramagno's civil cases.

"When he (Terry) received Mr. Caramagno's files from the State Bar, he realized the majority of the files were incomplete or nonexistent," Goodenow wrote. "Some of the files did not have basic information, such as client telephone numbers or addresses."

Approximately 30 other lawyers subsequently came forward at Terry's request to help litigate the cases. In Jakuchunas' case, local attorney Marc Saggese ended up negotiating a plea deal that called for probation.

Caramagno admits that his preparation was harmed by his substance abuse, although he maintained last week that outside of his appearance in Leavitt's courtroom, he worked in the best interests of his clients.

"I was writing checks my body couldn't pay," Caramagno said. "You don't realize you are in trouble until you are out of it."

Caramagno said he's working to maintain his sobriety with a self-help group for lawyers struggling with substance abuse.

"What I've learned through this experience is you have to be humble in life," Caramagno said. "You can't live inside your own head and have serenity. When you are under the influence, your judgment is impaired, you are delusional, and you can't even control your actions. I actually feel most embarrassed for my family given the coverage it got."

Caramagno also said he intends to show people that despite his public fall, he is committed to regaining his credibility and the trust of both the public and the legal community.

He first has to petition the Nevada Supreme Court to get his license to practice law back, and then he said he plans to try and regain his credibility one case at a time.

He said he goes to his computer every day and watches the video of himself drunk in court.

"It is not funny," Caramagno said. "What I did was irresponsible. I also know it's early for me. But the one thing about it is I feel like I'm building momentum. One day at a time."
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