Email messages between Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and a former Buckeye football player Chris Cicero, who lettered on the OSU football team the first year Tressel served as an assistant coach at the school, have been the subject of much scrutiny the past two months.
(Cicero on Ohio State sideline with Buckeye legend Eddie George)
While the relationship between Tressel and Cicero prior to their email exchange is still unknown, according to published reports Cicero has repped high profile Ohio State football players in past criminal cases.
The COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported on March 31, 2004 (subscription required), that Cicero was the attorney representing former Ohio State football Santonio Holmes against a disorderly conduct charge. The case also involved former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
On December 6, 1994, the NEW YORK TIMES identified Cicero as the attorney representing Ohio State football players Mike Vrabel and Tommy Hoying against assault charges.
And on June 16, 1996, the THE POST in Athens, Ohio, reported Cicero as the attorney of record for former Ohio State football player Matt Finkes in a misdemeanor assault and resisting arrest case.
Like the nature of Tressel’s relationship with Cicero prior to the emails, it is unknown if Cicero was the attorney acting on behalf of Edward Rife when Cicero emailed to Tressel information about a federal drug trafficking investigation of Rife.
On December 28, 2010, Kathy Lynn Gray and Encarnacion Pyle of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported the following about the Tattoo Parlor where multiple Buckeyes were found to be bartering OSU player gear and awards for cash and tattoos:
According to Experian Business Reports, the company was created in 2007 by Joe Epling, 35, who now lives in Florida. Ohio Secretary of State records show Edward A. Rife as the owner in paperwork submitted in 2008.
A search of Franklin County court records revealed that Cicero formerly represented Rife business associate Epling in two separate legal matters in 2002.
(Read emails Cicero sent Tressel about Rife investigation)
The Ohio State Bar Association rules governing attorney-client confidentiality state:
Division (a) prohibits a lawyer from revealing information relating to the representation of a client. This prohibition also applies to disclosures by a lawyer that do not in themselves reveal protected information but could reasonably lead to the discovery of such information by a third person. A lawyer’s use of a hypothetical to discuss issues relating to the representation is permissible so long as there is no reasonable likelihood that the listener will be able to ascertain the identity of the client or the situation involved. ..
.. The duty of confidentiality continues after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated.
Again, it is not known if Cicero was Rife’s lawyer when he sent emails to Tressel revealing intimate details of a federal investigation into possible criminal activities by Rife. Activities that also, in part, resulted in myriad NCAA violations by members of the Ohio State football team.