COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – Christopher Cicero, the lawyer who informed former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel that his players were selling memorabilia to a tattoo parlor owner in 2010, was disbarred on Wednesday by the Ohio Supreme Court.
In the wake of the NCAA investigation of players selling autographs and memorabilia, Tressel resigned on May 30, 2011. Tressel was given a five-year show-cause penalty (Article 19.2.3) for not reporting the information from Cicero to the NCAA. In the wake of more serious college football scandals at Penn State and Miami (Fla.), Tressel focused on an academic career and is now the president of Youngstown State University.
The scandal, which involved players selling memorabilia, autographs and championship rings was a major national sports story at the time but became less relevant after more serious scandals erupted at the University of Miami (Fla.) and Penn State.
The Columbus Dispatch reported Cicero was convicted on Wednesday for professional misconduct for the fourth time. The court permanently revoked his law license. Another Columbus lawyer, Timothy Dougherty, was suspended two years for allowing Cicero to “engage in the unauthorized practice of law with his clients while Cicero was suspended.”
Cicero emailed Tressel in about his players and the tattoo parlor in 2010. Cicero learned the information while consulting tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife. Rife had asked Cicero to keep the information about the players confidential. Cicero never told Rife he emailed information to Tressel, which included information about specific players, such as then Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The incident resulted in a misconduct hearing.
In an unsigned opinion, the court wrote, “Cicero chose to ignore, rationalize or act ignorant of the unambiguous limitations placed on him as a suspended attorney and because he has proven time and time again that he cannot act as an ethical attorney.”